Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers

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Among the Anishinaabe people, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, also known simply as either the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others. Originally from Edward Benton-Banai's book "The Mishomis Book". An example of a contemporary Anishinaabe teaching presented in the form of a traditional teaching to be used in contemporary situations. (see Mary Magoulick's Traditional Teaching Narratives in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan)

Background[edit]

In Edward Benton-Banai's story "The Mishomis Book" it is stated that the aadizookaan (traditional story) or the teachings of the seven grandfathers were given to the Anishinaabeg early in their history. Seven Grandfathers asked their messenger to take a survey of the human condition. At that time the human condition was not very good. Eventually in his quest, the messenger came across a child. After receiving approval from the Seven Grandfathers, tutored the child in the "Good way of Life". Before departing from the Seven Grandfathers, each of the Grandfathers instructed the child with a principle.

A very thorough re-formulation of a variety of ancient Anishinaabe/Midewiwin teachings on the ethics of proper behaviour and conduct. Benton-Banai manages to incorporate many traditional teachings into his story about the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Benton-Banai succeeds in showing how an Anishinaabe Traditional Teacher can borrow from traditional teachings and recombine and change them to make them relevant to contemporary issues faced by Anishinaabe people.

Teachings[edit]

  • Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only "wisdom," but also means "prudence," or "intelligence." In some communities, Gikendaasowin is used; in addition to "wisdom," this word can also mean "intelligence" or "knowledge."
  • Zaagi'idiwin—Love: To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gizhaawenidiwin is used, which in most context means "jealousy" but in this context is translated as either "love" or "zeal". Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.
  • Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ozhibwaadenindiwin or Manazoonidiwin.
  • Aakode'ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means "state of having a fearless heart." To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use either Zoongadikiwin ("state of having a strong casing") or Zoongide'ewin ("state of having a strong heart").
  • Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean "righteousness."
  • Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean "compassion." You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this with Bekaadiziwin, which in addition to "humility" can also be translated as "calmness," "meekness," "gentility" or "patience."
  • Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further readings[edit]

  • Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. Hayward, WI: Indian Country Communications, 1988.