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Slices from Life

The Seven Grandfather Teachings

By Saeed Ibrahim

A carving by Indigenous artist Garrett Nahdee was installed a year ago on 18th November 2021 in the Legislative Chamber of Canada’s Ontario Assembly amidst fanfare and widespread media coverage. What  could have been the significance behind this much publicised event and the sculpted panel being given a place of prominence above the chamber’s main door?

The panel, called Seven Grandfather Teachings, are a set of guiding principles that give people the tools for how to live a good life. They form an integral part of the oral traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years, and from generation to generation, through storytelling and ceremonies of the Anishinaabe and other indigenous communities that were the original inhabitants of much of the traditional landscapes of the Great Lakes region of Ontario. Illustrating the Seven Grandfather Teachings,  the carving is meant to give symbolic  representation to the indigenous people of Ontario, to honour and acknowledge their historical and cultural contribution and to build bridges of reconciliation and understanding between communities.

In a broader sense, however, these ancient teachings embody a philosophy of life that is universally relevant and one wonders if the wisdom of the elders could serve as a panacea to soothe and heal the ills that plague our world today. If followed and put into practice together and as a whole, could they pave the way for a happier, healthier and more harmonious world order?   

Garrett Nahdee, who grew up in Walpole Island First Nation, a Anishinaabe reserve in southwestern Ontario, is not only the creator of the carving, he himself is a firm believer in its teachings. According to him, for the teachings to be meaningful and effective, change must begin with the individual. “The Seven Grandfather Teachings are great leadership traits, and when they are practiced in everyday life, you will see changes in your life. Burdens will be lifted, and bitterness will deplete, uplifting your spirit to soar to another level of progress.”

Saeed Ibrahim is the author of two books – Twin Tales from Kutcch, a family saga set in Colonial India, and The Missing Tile and Other Stories, a collection of 15 short stories. His other writings include newspaper articles, some travel writing and several book reviews.

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