“Manito Api – A Return to the Centre”

Elder Dave Courchene calls for a return to values
Elder Dave Courchene calls for a return to values

Manitoba Starts 150 Year Anniversary Celebrations

WINNIPEG – Elder Dave Courchene spoke in Winnipeg at the opening at the Metropolitan Theatre for celebrations for Manitoba’s 150th Anniversary.

Here are his remarks:

Began with a blessing in the Anishinabemowin language.

“Let me begin by bringing blessings from the sacred site we refer to as Manito Api, located within this province, at the geographical centre of the continent, deep inside the Whiteshell Provincial Park. The name Manitoba was derived from the name of this sacred site – Manito Api.

As the province of Manitoba celebrates its journey into Confederation, I also join in celebration of our existence as the First Peoples in our homeland. We have evolved as a unique and distinctive People, so we could be a part of a movement, together with all the brothers and sisters who have arrived here.

We have all evolved to reach this moment in time, a time of change and great opportunity. As we witness the Earth changing, we must also change and shift ourselves to be in alignment with the forces of nature.

Nature’s laws have always been self-enforcing. We all have to awaken to the fact that the Earth is a living entity, who needs to be respected. The world struggles to find a more sustainable way that offers respect for Nature’s laws.

Our ancestors as the First Peoples would go to Manito Api, which means “Where the Spirit Sits” in our Ojibway language.

This sacred site has significant meaning for the First Peoples. It is a place that defines our identity as a People, a place we have honoured and respected for many thousands of years, where we would meet and pray together in ceremony, sharing our visions and dreams, teachings, prophecies and medicines with our People coming to the centre from all over the continent.

It is here our ancestors left a footprint, encircled with many petroforms, that tells a story of an ancient People. They left a legacy for future generations. They saw a time in the future of the new people arriving. It would be in these times that significant change would be possible.

Humanity would need to align with the forces of Nature, aligning with laws our People know as Spiritual Laws and Natural Laws.

Knowledge of Spiritual Laws – the Seven Sacred Laws – has come to our People through prayer and ceremony done at Manito Api, here at the centre of the continent.

The Seven Laws are ancestral values that inspire our conduct as human beings, and bring us back into relationship with Mother Earth.

The Seven Sacred Laws are represented by seven animals. Each animal offers a special gift and understanding of how we as people should live our lives on Mother Earth.

These Seven Laws are:

Respect: to live Respect is to walk like the Buffalo, giving and sharing our whole being for the benefit of our Nations.

Love: to Love is to fly like the Eagle, acting in kindness towards all life, with the spirit of Love as it takes us into freedom.

Courage: to walk with the Bear is to live Courage, always doing what is morally right.

Honesty: to live in Honesty is to be true to yourself and true to your words, walking the land with the spirit and honesty of the Sabe – the Sasquatch – who follows Nature’s Laws.

Wisdom: to live Wisdom is to walk the spirit of the Beaver, using one’s gifts to build a more caring and compassionate world, knowing all life has purpose, meaning and gifts, that are needed to uphold the sacred web of life.

Humility: to walk like a Wolf in the spirit of Humility is to treat the Earth as a mother, with the knowledge that we are all related, brothers and sisters, walking on common ground, with a universal purpose to take care of the land.

Truth: to walk the Trail of the Turtle in Truth is to walk with all seven of the laws together –walking with Respect, Love, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, and Humility is to walk in Truth.

To know and live Truth is to lay these living laws as the foundation of our lives – these living laws that define our moral responsibilities. Together they make what could be called the framework of our spiritual identity – our identity as Manitobans.

The First Peoples have been here for a long, long time, waiting for this moment in time, where we would come forward to bring our contribution to help in creating a more inclusive and sustainable world. Our contributions would be based on these Seven Sacred Laws, and knowledge of Nature’s Laws, which our ancestors lived and survived by.

Today let us lay these laws as the foundation of how we will move forward into the future. This will ensure a future for all our children.

As we reflect on our current reality, it is obvious that we must find better ways of becoming a kinder people, and creating a more sustainable environment. We are living in a world in need of a new vision based on values, which can offer hope for the future. This hope must be based on our willingness to live from the heart, a heart filled with kindness.

These values can ensure prosperity for all. We have this great opportunity here in Manitoba, at the centre, to lay a foundation of values that can show the world the truth of who we can be as humanity, in alliance with Nature’s Laws. Put simply, Nature rewards those who follow her laws.

This is what the centre symbolizes.

We can begin this journey here from the centre, from the heart of Manito Api – Manitoba – in the heart of the continent, and from our own hearts, Where the Spirit Sits. Whoever is connected to one’s heart is connected to the true nature of all living things.

It is here in the centre, that Manitoba can reveal its true spirit. We begin to connect from the centre – and from the centre we create a ripple affect all around us – as we spread the spirit of kindness, together. Only through the power of the heart can the world be transformed from our current reality of indifference. We must become centered, and, based on the value of inclusiveness, support all citizens of this province to take part in creating a more peaceful, more just, and sustainable society.

Together, we can change the narrative in this country. All it really requires is living from the heart, living with kindness.

This is the essence of our home, and our name, Manitoba – Manito Api – Where the Spirit Sits. Let us be true to our home, and return to the centre in each of our hearts.

Thank you.