Words Can Be So Powerful

Words can be so powerful. They can make us laugh, fall in love, understand some concept, aid in our healing process, or conversely create anger, strife and pain.   As an Indigenous person born in 1951, my parents spoke Ojibwe to each other and to my aunts, uncle, and my grandparents.   They also spoke English.  Today, as it always has been, our spiritual teachings are only given in Ojibwe.  Those of us, who for whatever reason have limited understandings of the Ojibwe, have to rely on interpreters and to those interpreters,  I am grateful.

However, in this language that most of us use in our everyday work and family life, English words strung together, are the means we have to communicate verbally and literally.

I believe we are a critical point in the history of humankind.  The effects of our recent actions, including but not limited to: mountain top coal removal, the global use of fertilizers that contain chemicals harmful to humans in creating the food that is supposed to sustain us but is poisoning the earth and our water systems, the petro-chemical industry that fills the pockets of a few with obscene wealth and leaves the workers and the people with oil spills and the accompanying disasters for local communities to live and die with, GMO’s, more poised to continue like the sulfidemines, fracking, and nuclear power plant disasters.

There are many who are organizing to change these policies in their communities. To all of you, I say migwetch/thank you. I would like to ask you to consider these things:

In 2011, many Indigenous women and our supporters, walked from the four directions carrying the healing salt water from four oceans to the heart of turtle island, Lake Superior. The walk from the south, a journey of 900 some miles. As I was almost in view of Lake Superior, a 12-year-old young woman said to me, “Do you think this is going to do any good?  After all, the mining companies are so powerful, they have so much money.”  I said to her, “I’d like you to do this one thing, every day.  Take our asemaa and put it in the lake. Tell the water spirits, we remember them, we are grateful to them, and we love them.  Can you do this?”  She said,” yes.” I believe that we must have faith.  Faith in the water spirits, faith in the earth and faith in humankind, faith in the power of love. No amount of money is more powerful than these forces.

So now, I ask you to consider your words, your organizing slogans and strategies and most importantly, the beliefs that you hold and that fuel and sustain your work.  Will words and concepts like: ban, battle, block, blockade, fight, stand against, stop, and war, move people to join us in our efforts to save ourselves?  Likewise will civil disobedience work?  Just a note on that, 80% of all incarcerated people are people of color already, do we want to incite violent actions from the police whom we know are already instituting racial prejudice? Or do we mobilize in love, for love, and towards love?

To create the world we wish to live in, does someone else have to lose?

It’s difficult to change the language we use and more importantly, can we change the way we think and act?  Can we begin to believe such ideas as: Yes, We Can!  Develop Jobs and Renewable Energy?  Come along with me! We have hope for the future and can work to save the land for our children’s children.

We are only here for a short period of time, and in the last 60 years we have done more damage to the earth and to the atmosphere than humans have done since the beginning of time. Can we begin to undo some of the damage and create societies that are inter-dependent?  Migwetch!

Sharon M. Day