Thursday, November 23, 2017


Seven Generations, Seven Teachings: Ending the Indian Act

John Borrows |

University of Victoria

Six generations have passed since the Indian Act was introduced and the seventh generation, now rising, will be healthier and our communities will enjoy more freedom if we assist them in getting rid of the Indian Act. Communities and the next generation can overcome the Indian Act’s hold over all aspects of their life by following their own fundamental teachings.

Following his own Anishnabe teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, John Borrows demonstrates how these seven principles can guide action towards lessening this hold of the Indian Act on First Nations.

Nbwaakaawin (Wisdom) Learn our languages and traditions, and do all we can to master their depths. We are in the best position to teach our culture and can control our own educational methods and institutions. Access the world’s sciences, economics, and mathematical insights. Understand other histories, literatures, politics and geographies. Indigenous languages and traditions will be not diminished if they remain at the heart of inquiry.

Zaagidwin (Love) Love promotes approaches that recognize and affirm family relationships, like husband and wife, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins. We are spiritually and sociologically a people of extended kinship and clan relations. The Indian Act stands in the way of love. It excommunicates family members who have two generations of parents that marry ‘non-Indians’.

Mnaadendimowin (Respect) Give respect to those in our communities whose lives exemplify the Seven Grandfather teachings. Respect requires that we find ways to look after women when subject to marital breakdown, abuse or violence in their relationships. Living respectfully would see us eliminate the Indian Act, without eliminating our communities.

Aakwade’ewin (Bravery) Bravery requires us to face the complexities of our relationship to Canada. When we speak of ending the Indian Act, bravery should cause us to consider how our internal laws and teachings might direct our external dealings with others. Bravery will be misspent if not directed toward goodness.

Dbaadendiziwin (Humility) Humility contains powerful medicine that can direct us towards goodness. Humility requires us to ask ourselves if we are unintentionally reinforcing the Indian Act as we try to get rid of it.

Gwekwaadiziwin (Honesty) Honesty requires us to confront the reality of poverty, acknowledge the limitations of reserves and accept that 50% of First Nations peoples now live off reserve. An honest evaluation of who we are and where we live as First Nations people can be liberating. We live everywhere, yet remain connected to an indigenous somewhere. Getting rid of the Indian Act means broadening how we see our Nations.

Debwewin- Truth- Embrace the truth that being First Nation rests on citizenship, family, culture, outlook and action on political standing, not blood. We should clearly and loudly assert that our rights are political, cultural, legal, spiritual and sociological. We are not seeking race-based rights.