WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WOLF will happen to the people
REFLECTIONS ON AN OJIBWAY PROPHECY
By Sr. Priscilla Solomon, C.S.J.
As Canadians, we live in a society that values progress and development, technology, and economic affluence-often oblivious to the costs incurred in terms of ecological, political, social and cultural destruction. Indigenous peoples living the lifestyles and philosophy of their ancestors stand in the way of this technological approach. A world view that respects and uses the earth, the water, and the trees for essential benefits and not for financial profit is seen as somehow 'backward' from the perspective of those who are prepared to dear cut, strip mine, or dam rivers and flood huge areas of (usually Indigenous) land.
Who dares challenge this view? There is a growing chorus of voices that do. There is a stronger voice for ecological accountability; but there is not yet much awareness of the intimate connection between abuse of the Earth and abuse of the Indigenous populations of the Earth. Far fewer voices name this.
In his poem "On the Environment", my father, Art Solomon, did. He delivered a powerful critique on the destructiveness of the dominant culture against Aboriginal peoples. His message applies beyond the Peoples of North America. It speaks equally well to the situation of Indigenous peoples and economically disadvantaged peoples everywhere. He says:
- Progress and development...
We have always been told
That we have to have progress and development
But we know it by another name
It's called death and destruction
To the Earth and the people of the Earth...
Never in the history of the human family
Has the Earth and the children of the Earth Mother
Been so devastated as it is now
-Art Solomon, "Eating Bitterness: A Vision Beyond the Prison Walls" NC Press (Available from the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, see page 22 for contact information.)
Indigenous peoples, wherever we have lived, have carried the story of the Earth as our own in both our self-view and worldviews. The Indigenous understanding of human interconnectedness and interdependency with the Earth, the elements, and Earth life forms is absent from the dominant political and economic worldviews of today. So also is the awareness that we humans are to be caretakers, not plunderers of the Earth.
Indigenous peoples on every continent have recognized the nature of our relationship with the Earth as reciprocal. Historically we have lived out of an awareness that enabled us to know that what we do to each other we do to the Earth, and what we do to the Earth we do also to the human community. To our own peril we are at risk of losing this vision when we seek individual wealth and status within the dominant culture.
In Ojibway teachings there is a prophecy that says: "What happens to the wolf will also happen to our people." History reveals the truth of this. When the wolf stood in the way of advancing non-Aboriginal populations there was a bounty on its head. Make no mistake there is a bounty on the heads of every Indigenous population around the globe that stands in the way of `progress and development.'
To the shame of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, liquor and trinkets (though bigger) are still bargaining tools to access resource rich land. Some Indigenous cultures, way of life and peoples still face extinction. Others face irreparable damage: loss of traditional lands, identity, culture and tradition.
If people of the dominant cultures were able to look with new eyes they would see the ancient wisdom of Indigenous peoples as not only viable, but essential to the survival of this planet. We would all see that the destruction of Indigenous peoples and cultures for so-called progress and development is wrong, unconscionable, and a violation of what it means to be human; ultimately, annihilation of all life. Perhaps now is the time for all of us-Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples-to stand together. What happens to the wolf happens to the people, and vice versa. We can choose life for the planet. What will happen to the wolf?
Priscilla Solomon is an Ojibway and a Sister of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie.