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Teachings From the Tree of Life, part 31: The Issue of Shame

Updated: 2 days ago

Ode’imini-giizis (Strawberry Moon) / Baashkaabigonii-giizis (Blooming Moon), July 10, 2024

 

"When Evil Invaded Our Lands" Painting by Zhaawano Giizhik
"When Evil Invaded Our Lands," ©2024 Zhaawano Giizhik
 
"Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion often associated with negative self-evaluation; motivation to quit; and feelings of pain, exposure, distrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness."

Boozhoo!


For many centuries, US and Canadian settler societies have thoroughly disrupted Indigenous culture and tribal social relations; a deeply rooted sense of disorientation and alienation, diseases, alcohol, and child abuse have done the rest. Anishinaabeg were known as Zhawenjigewininiwag (“The Kind-hearted People”) but that has changed because the colonizers forced their language on our young, took them away from our families, and taught them to be judgmental, cruel, and intolerant. They took our innate compassion and empathy away.


But there is also a positive narrative be told. We are in a time of finding new balance.


Finding a new balance begins in the mind. It starts with aabanaabam, literally.: “turn and look back.” Used in a traditional context, abanaabam signifies a time to stop, pause, and take a look back in the past from which the People (our ancestors) have emerged.


Looking back means re-educating ourselves. It starts with re-indigenizing the way we think. It starts with healing, a land-based healing through ceremony and traditional-storytelling, reaffirming our relationship with one another and our ancestors and the lands they lived on. If we truly want to heal the deeply felt trauma that has strangled and haunted us for many consecutive generations, we must replace the system that oppresses and distresses our Peoples since the first Wemitigoozhiiwag (“Stick Wavers”; the French Jesuits) descended our rivers and uninvitedly landed on our lake shores.


The first thing we must do is break free of the mental and behavioral stranglehold that system is keeping us in, as a People and as individuals.


"Lateral violence: organized, harmful behaviors that we do to each other collectively as part of an oppressed group, within our families, within our organizations, and within our communities."
–American Institute on Domestic Violence

The first thing we need to do, in short, is decolonize our behavior toward each other.


A friend from Minnesota, herself a Boarding School survivor, once told me that "Shame issues are imbedded in the teachings of the Gichi-mookomaan's training." *


By condemning our cultures and intimidating converts through sermons full of fire and brimstone and by forcefully abducting our children and putting them in Catholic and Protestant concentration camps (called Boarding Schools in the US and Residential Schools in Canada) they taught us to hate ourselves and, in the end, to hate "God" for making us "Indian."

So incredibly sad and so absolutely true. THIS is something we must reverse, more than anything else. Get rid of the self-loathing that the Christian missionaries, reflecting the ethnocentric and racist cultural standard of the European settler societies that sent them, systematically instilled in us. By condemning our cultures and intimidating converts through sermons full of fire and brimstone and by forcefully abducting our children and putting them in Catholic and Protestant concentration camps (called Boarding Schools in the US and Residential Schools in Canada) they taught us to hate ourselves and, in the end, to hate "God" for making us "Indian."


"The boarding school era represented a deliberate policy of ethnocide and cultural genocide and human rights abuses. They rank somewhere between dungeons and death camps. They were overcrowded, understaffed, underfunded, operating with limited resources, places where diseases ran rampant."
- Dr. Denise K. Lajimodiere 

Self-loathing, or shame, is a feeling that goes hand in glove with self-hate, as it constantly pushes the idea that we're not good enough. It is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion often associated with negative self-evaluation; motivation to quit; and feelings of pain, exposure, distrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. It leads to severe conditions like depression and substance abuse. It also leads to lateral violence: verbal, physical, and sexual abuse toward our own people.


These intergenerational thought and behavioral patterns may well be our worst enemy. Identifying these patterns and understanding what caused them are crucial if we want to break the cycle.


Weweni onjida gibizindaw noongom. Thank you for listening today.


 

NOTE:


* Gichi-mookomaan: "Long Knive." This is how the Ojibweg on the US side call Anglo-Americans. A descriptive metaphor stemming from military men carrying swords and bayonets.


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