Coyote Tales: Reviving unity and community through cultural teachings

As racial tension across Canada rises, a coyote might wonder if we are living in a world more divided than united. In a country that prides itself on being multi-cultural it might be surprising to see prejudice coming into focus or we are starting to see what has been there for a very long time.

In first peoples’ cultural teachings many, but not all, refer to “the medicine wheel” as a tool to explain their world view.

The teachings of the medicine wheel explain the interconnection of all life, including the ones that fly, the ones that swim, the ones that crawl, four-leggeds, the plants and the two-leggeds. All are related. All are sacred. All are equal.

There are a number of stone circles, especially on the Plains, that illustrate these teachings. The medicine wheel is depicted as a circle divided into four equal parts. The medicine wheel represents teachings about the four directions: East, South, West, North; it represents truths about the seasons of Mother Earth cycle: Spring, summer, fall and winter. It holds the teachings about the cycles of life that we must go through in order to become a complete human being: Baby, youth, adult and elder (senior). It represents the relationship between the four races, showing that we are all brothers and sisters: Yellow, white, black (or blue) and red. The medicine wheel teaches that everything in life is connected and interdependent. It helps us understand the principles, laws and values necessary for “a good life.”

In Cree “Wahkohtowin” means “everything is related.” It was explained by Cree elders in the BearPaw Production by the same name, as one of the basic principles of Cree natural law. The elders tell us that if we followed the teachings of Wahkohtowin individuals, families, communities, nations and the world would be healthier because we would show respect and kindness to one another. Then why is there a growing sense of division and isolation? Chief Dan George explained it this way: “One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear and what you fear you will destroy.” We fear what we don’t know and we don’t know each other because we no longer sit together to talk. Maybe we’re afraid because we don’t know how to start a conversation with a perfect stranger and we worry about offending a person that we think is so different from our self. During 2017 Red Deer Native Friendship Society will partner with different agencies to provide a number of events and community conversations designed to deepen the understanding of our story and help us reconnect to each other in a good way.

  • On March 22 at 7 p.m. Aaron Paquette will facilitate a story telling and writers workshop at the MAG. Please contact the Friendship Centre for tickets to this fundraiser for the Asooahum Crossing. Join the conversation to build peace and friendship.
  • March 21 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The second annual CommUnity Power of One event is set for March 18 at the Golden Circle at 4620 47th Ave. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Theresa Larsen-Jonasson will be the keynote speaker. Contact Central Alberta Refugee Effort for tickets.

Tanya Ward-Schur is the director of Asooahum Crossing.

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