This text is taken from the
script for an interpretive program that Muin’iskw used to give
at Kejimkujik National Park
is our cultural hero, a great m’ntu. He was gifted with great
powers – magical powers – but there is a higher Being, greater
than Glooscap, and that is Kji Niskam, the Great Spirit. It is
Kji Niskam who created the world. After Kji Niskam created the
world he rested, and as he did, he looked around to see what he
had done, and he was pleased.
He then decided he
would need someone to look after this world, therefore he
created Glooscap. After Glooscap was created, Kji Niskam told
him the reason he was there. Glooscap was to prepare the land
for the arrival of spirits who would be brought there to live
with one another in harmony. Upon the arrival of the spirits, it
would be Glooscap’s responsibility to watch over them.
So, for days
Glooscap prepared the land, morning ’til night, for the arrival
of the spirits. One evening, after Glooscap had worked all day
and was returning to his wigwam, he saw a young woman walking
toward his camp. She cam to the door of the wigwam and stood
there. Glooscap went up to her and asked, “What are you doing
here, young woman?”
The young woman
replied, “I have been sent here from the Sky World, to help
And so, the next
day when the sun came up from behind the Earth, Glooscap and the
young woman awakened early, and they worked hard all day
preparing the land. That evening, when they returned to the
wigwam, there was a young man waiting. Glooscap went up to the
young man and asked him, “What are you doing here?”
The young man
replied, “I have come to help you and the young woman.”
Glooscap then asked
the young man, “Where did you come from?”
The young man
replied, “I have come from the Sky World.”
So, the next day
all three of them worked together as they prepared the land for
the spirits. By mid-day, Glooscap stopped and looked around. He
then turned to the young man and woman and said, “It is almost
time for the spirits to come.” He points to the trees and says,
“Here we have trees, but no spirits yet. The spirits will be
summoned to come, and the trees will then have life, and they
will have buds, leaves, and flowers.”
He then turned to
the young woman and tells her, “You will be responsible for
summoning these spirits from here on, and each and every spring
you will place leaves on these tree. On the hackmatack, fir,
spruce and pine you will place needles, and on the other trees
and plants you will place leaves and flowers of many beautiful
colours. And seeds will be placed on these trees also, and from
these, new life will be created every spring. And in all these
trees there should be birds, to fill the land with beautiful
sounds. Go… go and summon these spirits, for it is spring, and
it is time!”
The young woman
moved away, turned, and looked toward the Sky World. She
summoned the great Kulloo Bird. When Kulloo arrived, she said,
“Kulloo, go up to the spirit world and let the Tree Spirits know
it is time to come to the Earth World, and that they are to be
accompanied by the Bird Spirits.”
So Kulloo flew up
to the Spirit World, which is beyond the Sky World, and summons
the Tree Spirits as well as the Bird Spirits. They arrive, and
each bird had brought its song from the Spirit World. These
songs filled the forest with breath-taking sounds.
turned to the young man and told him, “We will need the Animal
The young man
replies, “Then I will go and summon Kulloo, and tell him to take
a message to the Spirit World.” The young man turns and summons
Kulloo from the Sky World. Kulloo once again goes up to the
Spirit World, and tells the Animal Spirits to come to the Earth
to live. Kulloo soars back down, followed by the Animal Spirits,
who go and inhabit the land. Glooscap is pleased, and Kji Niskam
is pleased with the arrival of the spirits.
tells the young man and woman to go and live together, and they
too will bring new life into this world. The young man would go
and hunt the animals, and the woman would go and gather food and
medicines from the forest, so they would survive. And all the
Spirits of the land would help the spirits of the people yet to
In our legends and stories, this is how the Spirits of the land
came to the Earth World to live with the people, and that is
why, in all of Creation, in all of the land, everything has
Spirit. It is through Spirit that my Ancestors survived for
thousands upon thousands of years. The land, and the Spirits of
the land, provided everything the people needed – food,
clothing, warmth and shelter. In return, the land and the
Spirits only asked to be respected.
The Ancestors understood that to be in harmony with all things
was not only the highest and finest way to live, but was also
the most practical, useful, beneficial, and abundant. Their
practices were always in harmony.
My Ancestors mingled pride with a singular humility. Spiritual
arrogance was foreign to their nature and teachings. The never
claimed that the power of articulate speech was proof of
superiority over “dumb” creation. On the other hand, it was to
them a precious gift, yet they believed profoundly in silence as
a sign of equilibrium. Silence was and is absolute poise, the
balance of body, mind and spirit. And whether it would be
animate or inanimate, everything has spirit, and everything IS
spirit. This the Ancestors believed to be true, and thus they
lived as one with it.
As a child I learned to see, understand, and appreciate the
beauty around me, as it was a part of me. But back then, I lived
a natural life with a free spirit. Being that child, I saw
beauty in all of nature; every pebble was pretty and valuable to
me, and I marvelled at every tree with a spirit of reverence. I
learned from my untutored mother – Mother Nature – the essence
of morality. With her help, I learned things that were simple,
but of great importance.
Then there was a period of time where I struggled as a person,
who on one hand knows trueness, but on the other hand was being
reconstructed, as natural rocks are ground to powder and made
into artificial blocks to be built into the walls of modern-day
society. However, again in this stage of life, I have found my
belongingness with Nature. To be on the path of sacred ecology
today means that we have to take our spiritual beliefs back to
the realm of daily practices. This means becoming conscious of
our surroundings, and realizing what impact we have, whether it
is positive or negative.
The Ancestors believed this to be so, and thus they lived as one
Our Elders are the keepers of knowledge and stories of the past,
and they are responsible for passing on this information to the
next generations… and with this, they also pass on what Spirit
is. Native spirituality is not a religion, as we do not have a
religion. It is in fact a world view of our people, one
reinforced by the deep faith and beliefs of our Elders.
Among the people who dance, you will hear the Earth referred to
as Mother Earth, as it is believed that the Earth was created
from the spirit of a woman – a lifegiver. Creator made her and
said, “You will be the mother of all people.” Mother Earth has
certainly gone through many changes since her creation, but yet
she still lives; the soil is her flesh, the rocks her bones, the
wind her breath, the oceans, rivers and streams her blood, and
the trees and plants her hair. Mother Earth is, and HAS, Spirit.
Our people believed that all things are connected, and that all
of us must depend on each other and help each other as a way of
life, for that is what it means to be in balance and harmony
with the Earth. If we do not care about each other, and about
the animals and plants and their survival, then we ourselves
will not survive for very long.
Within our cultural languages, the world of relationships is
embodied in relative relationships of animate and inanimate.
Unlike the English language, which only understands inanimacy as
non-living, our Mi’kmaq concept holds that all living things
have a spirit, and are related. Thus, our language holds notions
of closeness or distance of relationships, rather than living
versus non-living status. To hold the view that the Earth is
non-living yields a distorted perception that has led modern
society to manipulate the environment around us. This society
sees the Earth, sun, and moon as inanimate, yet the Earth – our
mother – gives us life, the sun – our father – nourishes this
life, and the moon – our grandmother – determines when it is
time to bring life forth. All three Spirits working together – a
Mi’kmaq people believe that all things are connected. Our
traditional people have always been deeply spiritual people who,
throughout their daily lives, demonstrate their spiritual
consciousness. Furthermore, we all live in a circle, and with
this circle we are all dependent on each other, and are in a
constant relationship with each other.
Given that the Mi’kmaq view that all things in this world have
their own spirits, and that all things must work in harmony with
each other, the Mi’kmaq people show respect for those spirits by
including certain rituals with our interaction with nature. Just
as we send off the spirits of our dead with proper rituals and
ceremony, we also extend a certain amount of recognition to the
spirits of the animals, plants, trees, and elements which we
disturb for our own use. The act of honouring an animal or plant
is by no means an act of worship, but is in fact the
acknowledgement of their spirit, and our relationship as
brothers and sisters with them, and with the entire universe.
The spirits of all animals, birds, and all other creatures that
assist us should always be honoured. For too long we have
misused those who are our equals in the system of our universe.
The Creator taught us how to honour, respect, pray, and give
thanks, and told us to listen to the plants and animals that
would speak to us and bring us guidance and support, as they
were our spirit guides through life. When we cut an ash tree for
basket weaving, or take roots from the ground for medicines,
there are gestures we must follow to keep our minds at ease. We
do not apologize for our needs, but accept the interdependence
of all things. Every act of life is, in a very real sense, a
spiritual act. Our people recognize the spirit in all creation,
and believe that we can draw from these spiritual powers. The
hunter, for example, would stand before a kill and honour the
spirit of the animal he had freed – a demonstration of respect
for the immortal part of the animal. When women gathered food
and prepared it for a meal, the woman would murmur a prayer of
thanks as she lowered the kettle – an act so softly and caringly
performed that one who did not know the custom usually failed to
catch the whisper. The husband, as he received the bowl of food,
would also murmur his acknowledgement of the spirits.
In our traditions, we communicate with the Creator through our
interactions with nature: the animals, the forests, the birds,
and the fish. By this, we have what we call Spirit Helpers or
Spirit Guides. Our Guides are with us throughout our lives. It
is the strength and character of our spirit animals which
reflect the human character traits of individuals. Let us look
at a couple of these – what does the spirit of the Bear or the
Well, Bear is my animal Spirit Guide. I became aware of my
Spirit Guide many years ago, as I began my lessons with the
Elders and a Medicine Man. Therefore I had to learn about the
bear: its personality, habits, characteristics, and such. We see
the bear as having great strength, yet it is the gentleness that
makes the bear’s behaviour almost human-like. They are
relatively good-natured, but do not plan on making them mad as
they do have a serious side. The bear is closely associated with
nature, and therefore carries knowledge of medicinal plants.
Bears hibernate in the winter, which explains their association
with “dreaming the Great Spirit”. The symbolism of the bear’s
cave is like returning to the womb of Mother Earth, which also
suggests a strong feminine aspect of nurturing and protection.
People who are guided by the Bear Spirit are ones who show
strength, courage, and knowledge of medicines, and are nurturing
I want to share with you how I became aware of my Bear Spirit
Guide. My Bear Spirit came to me in a dream one night, some
years ago, yet the dream is still so vivid in my mind, as though
it happened last night.
In the beginning of my dream, I recall standing in the doorway
of a white room with high walls. I crossed the room and came to
another doorway, which was an exit. As I stepped outside this
doorway, I stepped into the spirit world. I began to walk down
this path, and I noticed that everything around me was a lush
green, a green so vivid I have yet to see it in this realm. As I
journeyed down this path, I remember that I adjusted my cloak,
and I noticed that this cloak that I was covered with was that
of a Bear. As I continued my journey, an Eagle came soaring down
and landed on my shoulder. I carried the Eagle, and as we walked
together on the path, Eagle spoke to me, giving me teachings.
And when the teachings were given, Eagle flew away and I sat
down on a log and rested. This dream was the recognition of my
Spirit helper, and once I acknowledged this I gained deep
The Eagle spirit is regarded as a messenger, since the eagle
flies the highest and sees the furthest of all birds. A story I
once heard tells how, when the Earth was created, a greta
thundercloud appeared on the horizon. Lightning flashed as it
descended and hit a treetop. As the mists cleared, there was an
Eagle perched on the highest branches. He took flight, and flew
slowly to the ground. As he landed on Mother Earth, he became a
man. From this, we recognize the Eagle as the messenger, and we
rely upon the Eagle to carry our prayers to the Creator. When an
eagle comes to where we are, we acknowledge it, and know the he
is watching over us.
To receive an eagle feather means that one is being acknowledged
with gratitude, love and respect. That feather must have sacred
tobacco burned for it; in this way, the Eagle Spirit and the
Creator are notified of the name of the new eagle feather
holder. The eagle feather must also be fed, by holding it or
wearing it at sacred ceremonies.
I was once told by an Elder that the eagle feather has two
sides; if the feather had only one side, then the eagle could
not fly. On one side of the feather one can find mind/intellect,
body/movement, and spirit/emotion. On the other side there is
institutions/education, process, and ceremony. When both sides
are balanced, we as individuals are also balanced, or in
It is through such spirits that we can learn lessons. Through
the beautiful Butterfly spirit, we can learn about
transformation, growth, evolution, change, and how to experience
joy. From Otter we can learn to be playful, nurturing, noble yet
curious, and humanitarian in our nature. Red Hawk spirit carries
lessons of awareness, insight, and truth. From the spirit of the
Beaver we can learn security, contentment, industry, balance,
and patience. Raven teaches us intelligence, community, duality,
and balance. From Turtle we learn the lessons of honour and
If we could only take the time to really get to know our winged,
four-legged, crawling, and swimming brethren, how they live, how
they adapt, and how they survive, we can actually apply their
teachings to our lives. This would certainly be of great benefit
to us as we travel our paths.
I would like to close tonight’s program with this short story,
which I recently came across. While it speaks of sadness, it may
at the same time open our minds, creating awareness. It is
called “Red Man”:
gazing intently on the land before him.
Tears flow slowly from his noble eyes.
His mind wanders back to time before times, days when his
people as Guardians, walked all this land, knowing no
They walked from ocean to ocean, living the life of
They lived off of the land, praying to the four winds, the
sun, the moon.
Mother Earth protected them and provided for all their
This was the time of the One People, days of rivers full of
migrating salmon and many other fishes.
Virgin forests teeming with deer, elk, squirrel, and
Plains thundering and vibrating from the hooves of countless
buffalo and antelope.
Seas full of clams, turtles, oysters, and fish.
These were the majestic days of the proud Native American.
His tears flow more freely now; watering Mother Earth.
His eyes look out on fields and plains full of tract
He longs for the beautiful Forests cut down to build these
His Heart aches for the streams and rivers now full of
rusting cars and refrigerators.
He cries for the bountiful seas, now full of oil and
Why has the Great Spirit allowed these things to happen?
What can we do to bring the land and waters back to life?
Can or should we simply stand here and watch Mother Earth
Perhaps it is time for all of us to become Native Americans,
guarding and protecting the Land instead of destroying it.
We should all pray to the four winds, the sun, the moon, the
Great Spirit, and to Mother Earth.
We need to beg for their forgiveness and guidance, to help
us save this world that we live on.
(written by Eagle's Wing Freeman)
So, we will continue the dance, to heal
Mother Earth, and live that dance whenever we move, in all that
we do, for the Land and all the Spirits of the Land.
Msit No’kmaq. All my relations.