Asking an Anicinape about their relationship with the Earth is like asking them about their view of life itself. The word “Anicinape” already tells you a lot about how we see things. In your language, you call us “Algonquins,” but we don’t have that word – it’s the name the French gave us, and we just went along with them. Today, we thank you for allowing us to explain that in our language we call ourselves “Anicinape,” which means “human being,” but in the sense that a human is a real being, living in harmony with nature.
Our ancestors always felt that the Earth could not possibly belong to us, because we belong to it. We are its children, but also its guardians, because we are responsible for keeping it safe for future generations. Despite all the problems our people have faced in recent centuries, our fundamental relationship with Mother Earth has never changed. In every river that flows, every tree, every animal, every stone, when we look at the moon, the sun or the stars, we still see a spirit, Life in its billions of forms, each one as splendid and sacred as the next.
Animals can also teach us many things if we care to observe them. The turtle teaches us to live in the present moment. The eagle, to gain some perspective and look clearly at our lives. The bear teaches us to stay strong in the face of obstacles. And the bison, to keep moving along our path through life, powerfully and calmly.
Our ancestors patiently transmitted their know-how to us, but also their knowledge of how to live. Central to this knowledge, they showed us that we dwell on the Earth, but that it also dwells in us! When the Earth gets sick, we get sick. When we get sick, it gets sick. If we want to care for it properly, we need to first tend our inner gardens. What it is experiencing at present is merely a reflection of the suffering and the frenetic pace of life that drive modern-day humans. Many First Nations prophecies spoke of this era, the one we’re seeing today, as a time when humans would have a crucial choice to make: to continue their headlong rush toward technology or to embark on a slower and more inward path, with the focus on self-awareness and the sacred nature of everything that Mother Earth lends us during our time here in this world.
For the Anicinapek, the forest is a place filled with “medicine.” Medicine is everything that can keep our bodies, our hearts and our minds healthy, filled with joie de vivre and peace. Fortunately, there are still countless places where Mother Earth continues to nourish us. We always have to keep a positive attitude, no matter what happens, for our future generations. We must have a single aim: to leave them the Earth just as the Creator and our ancestors bequeathed it to us.