Animism – Native American Religion



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the island of Newfoundland in the far east of Canada an isolated Bay situated along its western coast has been home to a small Conn River community of indigenous MiG more people for generations the bay was officially designated as an Indian reserve in 1987 with the help of federal funding it's change from being poor and isolated into a strong rural community with full employment and has attracted people into the area there's also been a reawakening of the community's First Nation identity and their traditional animistic culture John J Dorsey Nia was born in 1922 to an English mother and MiG more father he spent the first seventeen years of his life living off hunting and trapping we live by the seasons winter time we lived on heels trout and whatever a rabbit and so caribou not too much caribou in summer cthe or not that's a good in syrup and as if all come running September but it would be a back to the huntin and trap and din and this is where we used to gather a caribou meat and there and try it try it Indian name and for the furrier very winter whatever it and and SAP for furs whatever we could barter for a flower they were scarce we get a bit of tea or sugar or something but we lived in wave arms then you had to come home to sell our referred to you know we had to get a bit of food for home when I will come back again we never had any money there's no such thing as money and that's how we lived in from from year to year chief myzel Joe is the spiritual and political leader of the seven hundred strong Kahn River community he and others secured protected status for the area 25 years ago when it became a reserve my first trip on the land of my grandfather I still remember very clearly the things he did and the walk to get to where we need to go and I was only 5 or 6 years old still remember that and the medicine that we would see along the way would he would talk about the medicines and sometimes used the medicines so I remember that that's your story on the jingle dress in Whitefish Bader is a woman and she was sick one time really sick and she wouldn't get any better and her grandmother had a vision that she had to make this dress the jingle dress you know she prayed and her family prayed and pray and you dancing you pray and then she got better Joan Jett or seniors grandson John Jed or jr. works part-time in the communities new local museum built with federal funding to celebrate makhmour culture I go to Memorial University in Saint John's Newfoundland Labrador I just finished a degree in biochemistry and I'm hoping to attend medical school my grandfather if he went hunting with you if he went and you know trapped a beaver he put the bones back into the river if he trapped a fox and he took the meat he'd take the bones of Fox and he'd lay it on an old fallen tree because that's what you do that's what the meat while people do there was all those little things about him about his hunt that he did that were me my there were bones in the beavers foot and he wouldn't eat that because that was taboo you know you bad luck if you eat that and there's a Glandon in the moose or the bear I can't remember you can't eat that either because that's taboo and he said that he used to tell me that if you ate it that you'd have a bad hunt I like to warn us and I lick the handles and that is going on there and and enjoy it that way I don't know much longer I'm gonna be able to do it but I still the still load the life I walk in the woods and that's my church I talked to people and that's my church so I'm not bound by having to go to this one little building to you know pray and to speak to my Creator I I do it out here I do it particularly in the woods I do it so I have no no incredible hang-ups about not going to church it's July and the MiG more of con River are holding their annual power this three-day event was established 16 years ago they are held by First Nation people throughout North America and allow indigenous people to come together to celebrate their own cultures I'm a Megamall person I'm from Elsa buck Duke in New Brunswick I'm a doctoral student in Canadian Studies what I'm doing here is basically dancing I'm a men's traditional dancer the dancing is rooted in my spirituality it's a strong spirituality it's not something that I think about very much it's just something that I do I do it throughout the summer during the powwows but I also do it throughout the fall in the winter as well the historical context to powwows is that we had annual gatherings in the summertime we would call those Maui Oh me and Maui Oh me was basically people would gather around when they cooked me and the meat would have drippings coming down and people kind of waiting in anticipation of having a feast so that's where you get that term Maui Oh me it meant a gathering so during the summer gathering people would come in and you'd have a lot of ceremonies babies would receive their names people would get married and they would memorialize the people that passed away during the winter and a lot of talk would be political a lot of social activities and ceremonies would take place and they would have a lot of feasts and then they would sing and dance at the same time seventy years ago when we started talking about how I was whether or not we would get our own people to come to powwow but after the first year it was the kids that came out and brought their parents with them the first year the second year parents started showing up in regalia along with their children so at that state you said well we're on to something let's keep doing last year was noted as one of the top 29 Aboriginal experiences to see in Canada so it was kind of set apart from all the other pals in in most of Canada it's definitely brought a lot of attention to our community to a lot of people think you know I didn't think there were any Aboriginal people at Newfoundland there were no Indians here and so this power is kind of our resurgence to show Lea we are here and we've always been here Lancers make sure you stop right on time I think it's a Micmac manifestation of a Western power it has elements of a powwow from western plains cultures that have been adopted and absorbed into a bigmac culture although the community traces its roots back to at least the 1700s many of its members were assimilated often through marriage into the Catholic Church which became the predominant religion of MiG more people power is slowly but surely replace the importance of st. anne's day when Santa Anas they used to be social gathering in saint anne's day just a few weeks away is that why you decided to have it just before sometimes day I I wouldn't admit that to the bishop no but yes chief myzel Joe has sought federal funding to allow the community to establish a First Nation identity separate from their Catholicism though makhmour spirituality has always been part of their lives my father is Roman Catholic but he respects the environment I think like a megamouth person does we're walking in Nature Park and I noticed the way he walk would sometimes be erratic and you know he'd walk him normal then almost like he was walking over things and I asked him you know why he was walking like that and he took me back to you know to one of the spots where I'd notice like a a change in his pace ain't hooked any point down he asked if I'd if I snow descending down there and I don't know it didn't look any different than anywhere else on the trail and he said down there he said there's a shrew down there it's a little shrew trail with shrews like a little mouse I guess like the big nose and they're kind of blind so they kind of run around and he said there's a shrew trail there it's under the snow it's like a tunnel and he said if I were to walk on that time I said then I'd probably ruin that she was trail and he wouldn't know where he's going when he'd come back from getting his food and you know it's something that no one else would think about I don't that I didn't think about it but something he knew to avoid doing and that comes from that First Nation side of him I think that being a Megamall person has shaped his view of the environment he's Roman Catholic and I think that he does have some an arid spirituality about him that sets him apart from a Roman Catholic from st. Albans someone who was non Magma even though he missed it even though he wasn't exposed to it you know in person there's still something deeper that the shapes him the resurfacing of traditional make more values and sometimes present difficulties I feel denied yeah I did yeah I do feel I feel that I've missed out on something you know the dhole not so much the song and dance but the language my grandfather III did here and speak a bit but I learned later him like why he didn't speak it is because there's influence of his wife you know it was it was not a First Nation cider and and usually as the mothers that raised and ruled Roose Agassi in a way right you know you know unfortunately you know I didn't see that you know need to carry on you know and I didn't see the importance of holding on to it at the time and and cuz I didn't see it right you know yeah I didn't know you know like I say it wasn't it wasn't it wasn't hot at home it's an impact on their on their identity they feel that they're at a loss when when they lose the language you lose a lot of concepts that that don't translate very well into English the English language uses a harvesting but in the Mi'kmaq language it's like 'no no the link which is it's just a concept that you only take things that you would need and use and you wouldn't take any more than that like i wouldn't go and gather blueberries and because there's a lot of blueberries there i decide to take them all i would just go and gather the ones that i would need and the ones that i would use and i I would leave some there for other people or leave them there for the animals or like the Bears or whatever we jig salmon yes but if we never took notes no lot of them we do three or four for supper right and next thing you want so you go back kin there's a man coming from outside one time I put a net across when I got 17 barrels of salmon we never took that in 20 years I grew up listening to my mother telling me stories about our culture about the family some history they would tell us stories about little people they tell us stories about supernatural people stories about Glooscap how he shaped the land they would talk about their ancestors and how they they would fight against the mohawk they were enemies of the Mi'kmaq at one point in time they would say that their grandfather was a was a Gein up or or a super strong man and how he would lift barrels and carry them on ships and how we would hide that strength from other people but they also talked about the plants medicinal plants and stories like that as I as I was growing up when I when I got into high school I began to read a lot I used to get permission from my French teacher that I'd be able to go to the library because I explained that I didn't need the French language because I was already bilingual and they would allow me to go to the library and I read up a lot about su culture or Blackfoot culture or or GBA cultures because I was just curious and while I was reading in high school I also came across some material on on Mi'kmaq culture the idea of you know this wealth accumulation of whether it be money or you know I animals meat it doesn't have any bearing in our culture I think it's because it's this idea of competition which is also before an idea going to be better or something and wealth is basically the outcome of being better at something whether it's hunting or trading no one would be hungry in the community because if you had me you'd share with the community and it's only been lately that this idea of wealth it's come into play in our community well I think it's telling in wider society that capitalism isn't the the main objective it doesn't have to be the main objective in life accumulation of wealth doesn't have to be the main focus life that there can be appreciation for for other life there can be appreciation for the moment that we live now and not to worry so much about the future it's a more comprehensive outlook you're not just thinking about yourself anymore you think about your family you think about your community you're thinking about the region in general you're you're not even focused on your own species you're looking at the animal life you're looking at plant life you're looking at the condition of water you're even concerned about the planet itself the sustainability of the planet I find you don't receive that in a Western knowledge or a Western focus but a lot of indigenous people not just in Canada but around the world they have that type of focus they have a broader focus on life