The Seven Grandfather Teachings have always been a part of the Native American culture. According to the elders, their roots date back to the beginning of time. These teachings impact our surroundings, along with providing guidance toward our actions to one another. They are the basic rules that govern our individuality, our family life and our community life.
The elders tell a story of long ago when a messenger was sent from the Creator to see how the “Anishinabek or original people” were living, discovered that they were living their life in a negative way, which impacted their thoughts, decisions, and actions. Some had hate for others, displayed disrespectful actions, were afraid, told lies, and cheated. Others revealed pride or were full of shame. During the messenger’s journey, he/she came across a child. This child was chosen to be taught by the Seven Grandfathers to live a good life. He was taught the lessons of Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom.
Before departing from the Seven Grandfathers, they told the child, “Each of these teachings MUST be used with the rest. You cannot have Wisdom without Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth. You cannot be Honest if you are only using one of the other teachings. To leave out one teaching would be embracing the opposite of what the teaching means.” The Seven Grandfathers each instructed the child with a principle. It was then up to the child to forget them, or to put them to use.
Each one of us represents the child. We must apply the teachings of our Seven Grandfathers to our own lives, faithfully. We must place our trust in the Creator and the teachings that were given. We must also never forget to be sincere in our actions, character, words and deeds.
Historically, the education or teachings of the Seven Grandfathers has been done by the elders in an oral tradition. These teachings encompass the morals, values, structures, ceremonial practices, spiritual beliefs of the Anishinabek. These teachings vary from nation to nation, because of the geographical placement of each particular group. However, the teachings come from the same root story and share similar messages.
The Seven Grandfather Teachings have been given to the people of Turtle Island just as the Ten Commandments were given to the people across the oceans. They speak to basic principles that foster integrity and good outcomes for all people. These teachings are being adopted by schools and many other cultures.
Humility is represented by the wolf. For the wolf, life is lived for his pack and the ultimate shame is to be outcast. Humility is to know that you are a sacred part of creation. Live life selflessly and not selfishly. Respect your place and carry your pride with your people and praise the accomplishments of all. Do not become arrogant and self-important.
You must always consider ourselves equal to one another. You should never think of yourself as being better or worse than anyone else. Humility comes in many forms. This includes compassion, calmness, meekness, gentleness, and patience. You must reflect on how you want to present yourself to those around you. You must be aware of the balance and equality with all of life, including humans, plants, and animals.
Bravery is represented by the bear. The mother bear has the courage and strength to face her fears and challenges while protecting her young. The bear also shows us how to live a balanced life with rest, survival and play. To face life with courage is to know bravery. Defend what you believe in and what is right for your community, family, and self. Make positive choices and have conviction in your decisions. Face your fears to allow yourself to live your life.
Facing a problem with integrity is a true demonstration of bravery. You must do what is right even when the consequences may be unpleasant. You face life with the courage to use your personal strengths to face difficulties, stand tall through adversity, and make positive choices. You must stand up for your convictions and have courage in your thinking and speaking. All of these actions together will lead to ceaseless bravery.
Honesty is represented by either the raven or the sabe. They both understand who they are how to walk in their life. “Sabe reminds us to be ourselves and not someone we are not. An honest person is said to walk tall like SabE. And just like Sabe, Raven accepts himself and knows how to use his gift. He does not seek the power, speed or beauty of others. He uses what he has been given to survive and thrive. So must you.” The Seven Sacred Teachings of White Buffalo Calf Woman, by: David Bouchard & Dr. Joseph Martin. To walk through life with integrity is to know honesty. Be honest with yourself. Recognize and accept who you are. Accept and use the gifts you have been given. Do not seek to deceive yourself or others.
Facing a situation is to be brave, but having the courage to not only do the right thing, but also saying it, is honesty. You must allow truth to be your guide. You must first be honest with yourself. This will allow you to be honest with others. You must give full value to both the efforts of your own and others. When you walk through life with integrity, it is then that you know honesty. Be truthful and trustworthy. You must also remember to accept and act on truths through straightforward and appropriate communication.
The beaver represents wisdom because he uses his natural gift wisely for his survival. The beaver also alters his environment in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way for the benefit of his family. To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom. Use your inherent gifts wisely and live your life by them. Recognize your differences and those of others in a kind and respectful way. Continuously observe the life of all things around you. Listen with clarity and a sound mind. Respect your own limitations and those of all of your surroundings. Allow yourself to learn and live by your wisdom.
The mixture of these teachings, combined with the experiences of life, is what is referred to as wisdom. It is given to you by the Creator to be used for good. Wisdom carries other meanings, which also include intelligence or knowledge. When you cherish your knowledge or intelligence, you are also cherishing your wisdom. You must use sound judgment along with the ability to separate inner qualities and relationships. You must use good sense and course of action to form a positive attitude. You must remember to listen and use the wisdom that has been provided by your Elders. You must also always remember that Wisdom comes in all shapes, sizes, forms, and ages.
Truth is represented by the turtle as he was here during the creation of Earth and carries the teachings of life on his back. The turtle lives life in a slow and meticulous manner because he understands the importance of both the journey and the destination. Truth is to know all of these things. Apply faith and trust in your teachings. Show honor and sincerity in all that you say and do. Understand your place in this life and apply that understanding in the way that you walk. Be true to yourself and all other things.
Truth is having the knowledge of our cultural teachings. It gives you the ability to act without regret. You must understand, speak, and feel the truth, while also honoring its power. Truth should not lead you to deceptions. You know who you are in our heart. By knowing that, you also know the truth. Your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual gifts will guide each one of you in your journey.
Respect is represented by the buffalo. The buffalo gives every part of his being to sustain the human way of living, not because he is of less value, but because he respects the balance and needs of others. To honor all creation is to have respect. Live honorably in teachings and in your actions towards all things. Do not waste and be mindful of the balance of all living things. Share and give away what you do not need. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Do not be hurtful to yourself or others.
A way to honor creation is by showing respect. There should be no part of creation that should be excluded from the honor that you are to given. You demonstrate respect by realizing the value of all people and things, and by showing courteous consideration and appreciation. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. You honor the traditional roles that you fill and the teaching you have been given. You honor your families and others, as well as yourself. You are not to bring harm to anyone or anything. Respect is not just an action, but a heart-grown feeling.
The eagle represents love because he has the strength to carry all the teachings. The eagle has the ability to fly highest and closest to the creator and also has the sight to see all the ways of being from great distances. The Eagle’s teaching of love can be found in the core of all teachings, therefore an eagle feather is considered the highest honor and a sacred gift. To know love is to know peace. View your inner-self from the perspective of all teachings. This is to know love and to truly love yourself. Then you will be at peace with yourself.
Your love must be unconditional. When people are weak, that is when they need love the most. Love is a strong affection for another. This can form between friends and family. Love is an attachment based upon devotion, admiration, tenderness, and kindness for all things around you. For one to love and accept themselves is to live at peace with the Creator and in harmony with all of creation. Love knows no bounds. You must accept it sincerely and give it freely.