THE LEGACY OF MUIN'ISKW -
On 21 June 2003, a monument was unveiled to commemorate the dedication of Kejimkujik National Park as a National Historic Site. The monument, and the dedication, honoured and acknowledged the history of the Mi'kmaq, and their presence in the Kejimkujik area "since time immemorial." The monument was designed by Muin'iskw, and she was also chosen to lead the ceremony conducted as part of its unveiling. She thought it appropriate to start by smudging and praying, inviting in the spirits of the Ancestors to be part of the ceremony and celebration. Together, we wrote this script, which was read by a number of different people while the smudging was taking place. It is a wonderful explanation of the significance and meaning of each of the directions, and the things that should be called to mind and acknowledged when one smudges.
This part was spoken while the smudge was being prepared and lit:
The Elders tell us that all ceremonies, be they tribal or personal, must be entered into with a good heart, so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm. For this reason, we will now perform a smudging ceremony, where we will use the smoke of sacred medicines to purify ourselves, and to honour and acknowledge the universe around us. It is said that the smoke attaches itself to those things within us that are negative, and will carry these things away, if we allow it. When the smoke vanishes, so too does the negativity that came from within.
This ceremony will acknowledge the seven sacred directions. The first four directions are the four main directions of the compass: East, South, West and North. When a Native American prays to the four directions, it is a prayer to the spirits of the world, to life and the Great Spirit that encompasses the four directions and everything that is. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol that incorporates the four directions. Its spokes point east, south, west, and north. The four quarters are colored white, yellow, red and black, representing the races of man, the seasons, and the stages of life from childhood to old age. The circle is the earth, the moon and the planets. It is the circle of life and all creation. The circle is traveled clockwise, following the motion of the sun in the sky.
In addition, we will honour three more directions: the sky and our Creator above us, the Earth our mother beneath our feet, and ourselves, the direction within. By honouring all of these directions, we will have honoured all that is.
We first acknowledge the East direction, the direction of the sunrise and new beginnings. Each new sunrise brings us new light, and new opportunities to grow in wisdom. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the East to always place light in our words, and in our hearts, and on our paths. The East is the direction of the child, so we pray for the young of the world, that they may grow and live in peace, and become good leaders for our tomorrows. We acknowledge the Eagle, who sits in the east and carries our prayers to the Creator. We acknowledge the colour white, and the White Race that it represents. We acknowledge sweetgrass, the medicine of the east, and give thanks for its presence here today, and acknowledge water, the element of the East. We invite all Eastern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now acknowledge the South direction, the direction of summer warmth and abundance. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the South to bring us the warm winds of compassion, whose fragrance speaks of distant springs and summer days, to melt the ice that can gather around our hearts, dissolve our fears, melt our hatreds, and kindle our love into flames of true and living realities. South is the direction of the woman, and we honour them as the gateways through which our spirits come to earth, and we ask that women everywhere be protected for they are sacred. We acknowledge the Thunderbird, who sits in the South and puts his thunder in the storms. We acknowledge the colour yellow, and the Yellow Race that it represents. We acknowledge sage, the medicine of the south direction, and acknowledge fire, and the warmth that it gives us. We invite all Southern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We next turn to the West direction, the direction of the setting sun, and of the autumn season. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the South to remind us that the end our days is no more sad than the end of a single day, and that the end is often better than the beginning. West is the direction of the Elders, and we honour our Elders as the keepers of wisdom and teachers of patience. West is also the direction of our Ancestors, and we proudly acknowledge those who have gone before us, and ask for their guidance so we can live our lives as we should. We acknowledge the Black Bear, who sits in the West direction and is both the keeper of medicine knowledge and grower of the medicines. We acknowledge the colour red, and the Red Race that it represents. We acknowledge cedar, the western medicine, and earth, the western element. We invite all Western spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now turn to the North, the direction of the winter that covers the Earth with a sparkling crystal carpet above whose deep tranquility every sound is beautiful. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the North to temper us with strength to withstand the biting blizzards, yet make us thankful for the beauty which follows and lies deep over the warm Earth in its wake. West is the men’s direction, and we honour men as the providers and protectors of the family, and of the nation. We acknowledge the White Bear, who lives in the far North, and honour him for his ability to thrive in harsh conditions, and ask for his strength when we face trials in our lives. We acknowledge the colour black, and the Black Race that it represents. We acknowledge the fungus, medicine of the North, and air, the element of the North. We invite all Northern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now raise our eyes to Father Sky, and to Kisulk, our Creator. As we look upon the day’s infinite blue sky, or admire the countless stars of the night, we are reminded that the Great Spirit is vast, beautiful and majestic beyond all of our knowing or telling. But we are also reminded that the Great Spirit is no further from us then the tilting upwards of our heads and the raising of our eyes. We offer our thanks for all the things of creation, and for being allowed to be a part of it. We offer thanks for the visions and dreams that help us remember who we are, and why we are here, and ask that all people be given this wonderful gift. We ask our Creator to be with us today.
We now look downward upon Turtle Island, our source of life. We give thanks to our Mother Earth for all we have: our food, our water, air, shelter, and so many beautiful beings who are our Brothers and Sisters. We ask that we always remain aware that we are all interconnected in the web of life, for there are too many who are blind to this fact. As our Mother, the Earth has shown us much patience in our greed and thoughtlessness, but we now know better. We ask for the strength to defend Mother Earth when she needs it, as any grown child should defend their mother. We promise to always walk softly upon her face, for underneath our feet are the roots of the trees, the flowers and the grasses, and there can be no greater aspiration than to strive for a deep respect and connection with all our relations.
Finally, we look within, and acknowledge and honour our own spirits. We often don't consider ourselves to be of value or to be important, but we are. The Creator, the Great Spirit, is in all of us. We are an essential part of life. We are life in action, loving, moving and growing. In our center is the home of our Heart – may we always return to this place, so that we may know the meaning of our journey. From here, the center of our being, we can reach out to all directions, and to all our relations. However, we must always remember be humble, for we are NOT the center of creation. We must always listen to our hearts, the tiny Elder within us who can never lie, and never mislead us.
FINAL THOUGHTS DURING SMUDGING:
As we stand in a circle to be smudged and cleansed, consider the words of Black Elk, spiritual advisor to the Oglala Sioux, regarding the Circle of Life:
Here is a healing prayer, spoken by Medicine Grizzly Bear during the Earth Healing Ceremony, Spokane, Washington, 1990: