Sagkeeng First Nation, MB – Between June 8 and 10, First Nation Elders will be bringing Indigenous knowledge to the forefront with other climate leaders from around the world. A summit called Onjisay Aki is being hosted by the Turtle Lodge, an international center for Indigenous education and wellness, located in Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba, 100 km north of Winnipeg.
“We are living in an environment of chaos and uncertainty that is in need of change. Climate change is really about human change – a change of the heart,” said Anishinabe Elder Dave Courchene, who, as founder of the Turtle Lodge, initiated Onjisay Aki.
Onjisay Aki means “a changing earth” in the Anishinabe language. Knowledge keepers insist that the solutions to effectively adapting to our changing earth lie in embracing values and teachings found through the observation of the earth itself, values they refer to as “natural laws”.
Turtle Lodge initiated the Onjisay Aki International Climate Summit to bring Indigenous knowledge of living in balance with nature’s laws together with contributions of other prominent environmental leaders from the international community – including Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Bill McKibben of 350.org, Winona LaDuke of Honour the Earth, Scott Vaughan of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, Paul K. Chappell from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Eriel Deranger of the Indigenous Climate Action Network, and many more from as far away as Japan and Peru.
The 24 speakers will engage in roundtable discussion, with limited seating for invited observers, already at maximum capacity. The summit will culminate June 10 with an ancient ceremony to build a Thunderbird nest, to acknowledge and reestablish the human alliance with nature.
“We have survived for many thousands of years, living in peaceful coexistence with the land and with other nations with whom we have shared our homeland,” said Courchene. He added, “We come forward as elders and knowledge keepers to continue to give and share our knowledge to provide a direction that can help us move forward to a much more sustainable earth.”
The summit will offer answers to a public challenge made by Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who stated at the COP21 Paris climate talks in 2015, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste.”
“We have an opportunity to set a completely new narrative. We can create a new economy and new opportunities for the nation based on stewardship,” Courchene explained.
Courchene, also known as Nii Gaani Aki Inini, translated as Leading Earth Man, is following a vision he received to unite human beings from around the globe around the issue of climate change and earth transformation. Courchene, who lit the sacred fire at the UN “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is a respected knowledge whose environmental leadership and stewardship have had global influence.
Over the past 15 years, Turtle Lodge has been a centre for sharing Indigenous knowledge through events, ceremonies, conferences, and summits that include people from around the world. The Turtle Lodge seeks to promote positive, peaceful, and inspiring messages.
“Climate change should be viewed as an opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves and to make the necessary changes that will ensure a future for all our children,” says Courchene.