1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
FRIDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 24
James De Nomie, Meshkazeebee Ojibwe Anishinabe
Indians don't clap. We point with our lips. Thank you for the honour of asking me to be here. It's always a pleasure and an honour to be asked to speak to the Creator. I appreciate that very much. Also, I just wanted to share a couple of things with you before we have our blessing or ask for the Creator's blessing. It's really good to be back in my home town, Minowaukee, which is the correct way to pronounce the name of the city. Minow means good, aukee means earth, good earth, good place. The city of Milwaukee has a slogan that says, It's a great place by a Great Lake. It always has been. (Applause) I do have to say also that behind the scenes people literally stood on their heads today to reorganize this agenda. In my home town here we really do have a rush hour. It lasts for one hour. In Zsheegago, where I now live -- which is the right way to say Chicago -- rush hour begins at about 2 and ends at about 8. So my apologies, I was stuck, I had no choice and getting more frantic by the moment, so my apologies.
I did want to share with you that Wisconsin is home to more Indian tribes, and more native people than in any state east of the Mississippi River. So you're surrounded by a vast pool of native culture. Each has its own language and its own ways and sometimes just saying hi gets a little tricky because we have all these different languages. So, you've heard of perhaps English as a second language? Sometimes, here in Wisconsin it's a sixth or a seventh language. There are quite a few.
I do have ties here, however. I continue to come up here. I'm a producer and honorary reporter for a program called Outdoor Wisconsin, which is produced by Milwaukee Public Television here on Channel 10. We're seen in about 10 states and I'm also the co-host and producer of a native American radio program called Voices from the Circle, which is on a 48-station network throughout the United States and it's also on the Internet. So we have Indians in cyberspace.
What I did want to share with you, however, is that I've had the dubious distinction breaking the news about the infestation of the zebra mussels in the western Great Lakes. That was not a good thing. I really didn't like doing that but I had to announce that news, that knowledge. Earlier this year I also had the great pleasure of announcing the fact that there is a new territory in Canada and that roughly 770 thousand square miles of land, roughly the size of western Europe, has been returned to the native people in an area called Nunavut. (Applause) And as a former commissioner on the Board of Zoning Appeals for the city of Milwaukee, I know how important things like that are. So, again, we call it gwiggygun. Gwiggygun is our word for Canada. We do appreciate that by incorporating them and making them part of Canada. I do appreciate that very much.
What I'd like to do is ask you all to join me and in just a moment and I'm going to ask you all to stand and for those of you have difficulty standing please remain seated but the rest of you I'll ask to rise in just a moment. I'm going to be asking the Creator to bless what we are doing here today and for the duration of this conference and well beyond that. As the commissioner from Canada said, All the stars in right alignment. We'll touch base on that in just a moment, because we have some ancient prophecies. Here we are called Chippewa and in Canada we are called Ojibwe and both are bogus names. We really are the Anishinabe, the Anishinabe people, the original people. We came from the northeast, not the northwest. We did not come here by a land-bridge in search of mastodons. These people have always been here as all the other tribes indicate and their creation stories have always been here and not come from anywhere else.
I think I have talked long enough now and I have noticed that I'm going to smudge with some sage. I've been assured that the smoke detectors have been turned off because this is some very strong sage. I actually did clear out the U.S. West Training Center in Denver a few years ago with this stuff. We had a fire alarm. Let me light this and we'll begin.
I am a member of the Loon Clan and in my culture we are the orators of our people. I live that way traditionally and I live that way in a contemporary vein too of being both a television reporter and a radio announcer. We always go with the new technology and whatever works and whatever's best. Now we are going to find out, without these windows, who the real Indians are here. Which way is east?
All rise. Would you please face to the east? (Prayer in native language) Creator, Great Mystery, Earth Maker, Great Spirit, God, Lord, Jesus, whatever term you may use to talk to the Creator of us all. I ask that we send our thoughts and our prayers and ask the Creator to look down upon us as we convene for this very important conference, which will have a tremendous impact upon the people. When I talk with the people we speak of the two-legged people, and the four-legged people, and the plant people, and tree people, and the swimmers, the insects, the crawlers, the fliers, all the people. We are facing in a direction east as we walk this great medicine wheel of life, this circular wheel. East is designated by the colour yellow. It signifies birth, new life, spring, creativity. We ask the Creator to please look down upon us, as we convene for this conference so that we may set our curiosity, what we are born with in this period of our life. We ask the Creator to help us resurrect the curiosity that we may all possess so that we can apply it as we go through this conference. We ask the Creator with the help Mishomas and Nicomas, the grandmothers and grandfathers who watched the sacred portal to the east. We ask for that from Jamanadu, the Creator.
I would ask to face to the south please. The south is designated by the colour red. It represents summer. It represents the adolescent phase of our life. It represents creativity. I ask the Creator to help us again as we walk along this great medicine wheel, this great path of life that we are all on, that as we have come out of a period of curiosity that we combine that curiosity with creativity that we all possess, so that we can apply those things towards our purpose here, which is sibi (water) and (aquiquay) earth, woman. We ask you to help us along these ways so that we can do good things once again for all the people.
If you would please face to the west. This is the direction that is signified by the colour black. It is the portal through which we will all pass some day and meet up with all of our ancestors and our family who have gone ahead of us, as they have walked along that path of souls along the Milky Way. This is the adult period of our life. It is the period of acquiring great knowledge. We once again ask that we combine that with curiosity, creativity, and knowledge so that we can do whatever we can to help sustain and improve the condition of aquiquay, of earth woman. We ask the Creator with the help Mishomas and Nicomas, the grandmothers and grandfathers.
If you would please face to the north. The north is a direction that is signified by the colour white. It represents winter. It represents the elder stage of our life and it represents wisdom. It is this period in which our mother puts a white shawl over her shoulders so that she may rest in preparation for another cycle and another year of creativity, of curiosity, of gaining great knowledge, and rest once again. We ask that the Creator look down upon us, that we can combine all of these elements so that we can apply them as best we can in a good way with a strong heart in doing what we can to help our mother the earth.
I will ask you to face where you began. There are two more directions. One is up and that is the domain that we call Ishcoming. Ishcoming is a city in Michigan but that's not the Ishcoming I'm talking about. Ishcoming is a word for the universe, for the heavens, the domain of the Creator, the Great Spirit and it's also the domain of the givers of the seeds of life, the wing flappers, the birds. We hope that what we do here at this conference will enable those birds to continue what they're doing and continue to do them in a way that is even better than the past 50 years. We ask the Creator to help us along these lines so that we can help these other people, the wing flappers in their quest, the spreaders of the seeds of life.
There is one more direction which is down. This is signified by the colour green. By the way, the up is signified by sky blue -- that's pretty natural. This is a sacred spot that we stand on here in Minowaukee, the good earth. This is the domain of Aquiquay, the earth woman, of our mother earth and all that we have and all that we are comes from here on this place in this good earth. We would ask that again whatever we do and all of your conferences and breakout sessions, we ask the Creator for blessings on them so that we can sustain our mother the earth, purify her, sibi, her lifeblood, the water which gives us everything that we are.
Also at this point I ask you to think about someone in your life right now who may be a grandparent, a parent, a child, a coworker, a spouse, an acquaintance, someone you know that is hurting right now and really needs the blessings of the Creator. I ask you to just close your eyes for a few seconds and think about that person and ask the Creator for blessings to help that person through this time of difficulty.
I would like share one more thing with you. I spoke earlier about the stars or this man spoke about the stars being in the right alignment. The Anishinabe people have prophecies and all have come to pass. There are only eight prophecies. These go back thousands and thousands of years. I am told by my elders that we are in the midst right now of the seventh prophecy. It's called Ishcoday. It means fire, period, or era. We are in the midst of the seventh Ishcoday right now and what has been foretold is that this would be a period right now as we stand here that there would come a development call the Ashkaybenadazig. The Ashkaybenadazig are the new people.
I'm sorry. There are people facing the other direction. You can turn around this way. I didn't put this stuff on for nothing! (Laughter) The Creator likes humour too. I would like to share that with you because this would become a time on the Ashkaybenadazig would come to be and that is development of the new people and the new people are you, because it was foretold that we would have the coming of the people of this land, the people of the lighter flesh. The people of the darker flesh and these people, the new people would unite to form the greatest nation ever. It is what we do at conferences like this, and we ask for these blessings on this conference, that what we do today will have an effect on what we call in the ways of the Iroquois Confederacy, will have a great effect on the children of the seventh generation. So we do what we can for our children, we do what we can for our grandchildren, but it will be the grandchildren of the grandchildren of the grandchildren who will carry out what is being developed here today.
That will be the eight prophecy, the eighth period and last prophecy. If we are not responsible in doing what we are doing our mother the earth will not tolerate what's been happening and with a cataclysmic shrug of her shoulders we will be gone. If we are responsible in doing what we are doing, beyond the new people, the Ashkaybenadazig and that seventh generation and beyond, will come what's known as the Ashkayminishnewak,) and those are the new warriors and those are the people who will take what you have learned and what you have passed on and undo all that has been done to these Great Lakes and to our earth, and everywhere on the planet. So, with those thoughts we ask the Creator for blessings on all we do here during this conference. I also ask that you do it with a sense of humour and some gravity and I hope that it is growth for you. Thank you (in native language). (Applause) Uh! Uh! No clapping.
We'll see you all upstairs. Thank you.