Mehc-ote-pesqin : I Am One (part 1)


How do you greet people when you meet them?  At King’s Landing Historical Settlement we said “Good day,” at the high school some kids say hi by pushing each other into lockers, hi, hey, bonjour, beunos dias… When I wanted to learn some Korean I learned how to say their greeting, “anyong haseyo”, and one year during Native Awareness week at school they taught us a bunch of nouns, but I asked how to say hello in Maliseet. An informal greeting like “hey”  is “quay” but the main greeting is “Donnegok”, how are you?

At the end of this month, Halifax will be hosting the Truth And Reconciliation Commission hearings.  I am not an indigenous person and I make no pretense to even the slightest degree of expertise on the topic of Canada’s indigenous peoples.  But, I love to learn, and there is much to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters, especially about our stewardship of creation, and how to live a truly spirit filled life.

I am going to use the two stories; 1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a, and Luke 7:36-8:3, and stories of three of my indigenous contacts to look at the answer to Donnegok… “Mejedebesquin”,     I am one.

In Psalm 5:1-8 we read,

“4For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil will not sojourn with you.
5The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
   you hate all evildoers.
6You destroy those who speak lies;
   the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.”

 

All of those negative descriptions are what King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel represent. Ahab was spoiled. At his secondary palace in Jezreel, there was a neighbour, Naboth, who owned a vineyard which had been in his family for generations.  Ahab wanted to take this land away from the person who had it and turn it into a vegetable garden next door for his own convenience.  He offered either replacement land or the equivalent in cash.  The answer he received was, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”  Ahab wasn’t used to hearing no and he became depressed.  He told his wife about it and she told him not to worry.  She set up a plot which resulted in the death of Naboth thus allowing Ahab to have his garden. While Ahab was in the middle of this garden he had taken through villainy, God sent the message that he was not pleased.

 

There are several underlying question here.  First of all was the land either of theirs to give?  And even if it was theirs, how could you put an appropriate price on the land of one’s ancestors?  In Turtle Island (the continent of North America) “fair deals” and cheating, lying, and trickery have long been used to deprive the indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands.  Deals were made but not honoured, diseased blankets were “given” out in a very successful gamut to kill off large populations, reservations were formed and the people restricted from using the land in the traditional manner.

My friend Hugh Akagi is the chief of the Passamaquoddy people whose land straddles the Canada-US border and includes St. Andrew’s New Brunswick.  This First Nation is recognized only on the US side of the border.  As Hugh says, when he is on this side of the border he fades in and out because according to the government of Canada, he doesn’t exist.  You may read his letter which was written to the United Nations in 2002 at http://www.sipayik.com/akagi’s_appeal_to_the_un.htm

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