Four Directions Teachings.Com- An Exploration of Indigenous Oral Traditions

Aug 2011 by Janhvi Johorey

Four Directions Teachings.Com- An Exploration of Indigenous Oral Traditions

Four Directions Teachings ( see their website  www.fourdirectionsteachings.com) celebrates Indigenous oral traditions by honoring the process of listening with intent as each elder or traditional teacher shares a teaching from their perspective on the richness and value of cultural traditions from their nation.

In honor of the timelessness of Indigenous oral traditions, audio narration is provided throughout the site, complimented by beautifully animated visuals. In addition, the site provides free curriculum packages for grades 1 to 12 to further explore the vast richness of knowledge and cultural philosophy that is introduced within each teaching. The curriculum is provided in downloadable PDF and can also be read online through the Teacher’s Resources link. The curriculum packages have  been designed by experts in the field. Among the people who have contributed to and looked over this website in advisory capacity are :

  • Dr. Marie Battiste who is a Mi’kmaq, a member of the Potlo’tek First Nation in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Dr. Battiste has served as a United Nations expert and co-chair for the UN Workshop on Indigenous Heritage in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • James [SÁKÉJ] Youngblood Henderson who is Professor and Research Director at the Native Law Centre of Canada, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan. He is a noted international human rights lawyer and an authority on protecting Indigenous heritage, knowledge, and culture.
  • Dr. Reg Crowshoe who is a well-known Piikani Blackfoot Elder who is also Executive Director of the Oldman River Cultural Center in Alberta. Dr. Crowshoe has pioneered and initiated cross-cultural programs for many organizations and institutions across Western Canada.
  • Diane Hill (Katsitsawaks) who is a member of the Mohawk nation, Bear clan, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. For the past 20 years, she has been consulting in various Aboriginal education initiatives internationally and working to promote culturally-based educational strategies in the field of social work and in the area of portfolio-assisted prior learning assessment with the First Nations Technical Institute.
  • Sylvia Maracle who is Mohawk from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and a member of the Wolf Clan. Ms. Maracle has been involved in Aboriginal Friendship Centres for over thirty years, serving as the Executive Director for the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) for much of that time.

The elders and traditional teachers who have shared a teaching on this site were approached through a National Advisory Committee of Indigenous people concerned with the protection and promotion of Indigenous knowledge. This committee was formed directly for the purposes of this website to ensure a community based approach that was respectful and accountable.

There are audio recordings by the wisdom keepers and elders which can also be accessed at this website.

Audio mp3 (All Narration): Listen to the Audio

Blackfoot audio narration: BF_01M-Intro

Cree audio narration: Cree_01M_Intro

M’ikmaq Audio Narration: MikM_01M_Intro

Mohawk Audio Narration: MoH_00M_Intro

Ojibwe Audio Narration: Ojib_01M_intro

Many more audios can be found at: http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/audio.html.

There are audio recordings about the tipis, social and religious life and teachings and also the culture of the Blackfoot, Cree, M’ikmaq, Mohawk and the Ojibwe people.

This website offers introductions to the traditional worldview and worlds of 5 tribal nations- that of the Blackfoot, Cree, M’ikmaq, Mohawk and the Ojibwe people who are Native Americans of Canada . The tribal banners of these 5 tribe nations can be seen in the image below.

Trancripts for the teachings by Native American elders, found on the site can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

Banners of the 5 tribal nations

Blackfoot – Dr. Reg Crowshoe and Geoff Crow Eagle: HTML FORMAT | DOWNLOAD PDF

Cree – Mary Lee: HTML FORMAT | DOWNLOAD PDF

Ojibwe – Lillian Pitawanakwat: HTML FORMAT | DOWNLOAD PDF

Mohawk - Tom Porter: HTML FORMAT | DOWNLOAD

Mi’kmaq – Stephen Augustine: HTML FORMAT | DOWNLOAD PDF

These teaching resources reflect authentic Native American culture and are a good teaching tool. You can also access teaching resources at the website’s Teacher’s Resource Guide by clicking here

The Blackfoot have shared  the Blackfoot Tipi model and a little bit about our Piikani processes, which they  have
identified through their work at the centre. They want these systems to form the basis of Piikani governance, education and other forms of community
life.Many elders believe that there is an oral circle, or system, that exists across all the first nations of North America, and that we are all a part
of. Our Piikani Blackfoot systems are only a part of that greater circle.The Blackfoot through this website  share with you their Piikani perspective, as part of that great circle that unites us all.

To learn about the Blackfoot Tipi Model go to http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/blackfoot.html

The Cree believe that “As Cree people, we were given the gift of being named for the four parts
of human beings. Nehiyawak, we were called.It means being balanced in the four parts that are found in the foudirections of the Medicine Wheel. These four parts for human beings are the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental aspects of the self. We need to try and balance these four parts that were given to us, to function as people.”

The Cree believe thatfire is in the centre of the Medicine Wheel. That is where the meaning of the teachings comes from. For them this fire is also the self. When you look at the Medicine Wheel, you start from self. And as you look out, you make your circle.This is how the Medicine Wheel represents the life journey of people.

For the full Cree Medicine Wheel Teaching, go to http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/cree.html

The Ojibwe hold that there are Seven Sacred Directions.

The Four Cardinal points on the Medicine Wheel are the Four Sacred Directions, represented among the Ojibwe by the colours yellow, red, black
and white. Blue represents Father Sky in the upper realm, Green represents Mother Earth below, and purple represents the self, that spirit that
journeys in this physical world, at the centre of the wheel.

The Seven Stages of Life are also found on this Medicine Wheel. They begin in the east and move across the Wheel to the West. The Seven Stages of
Life are: The Good Life, The Fast Life, The Wandering Life, the stages of Truth, Planning, and Doing, and The Elder Life.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are also located on this Medicine Wheel. They begin in the Northern direction and move down to the centre of the Wheel. These gifts are the teachings of Honesty, Humility, Courage,Wisdom, Respect, Generosity and Love.The Teachings of the Medicine Wheel are vast. There are seven teachings within each direction on the Ojibwe wheel, and all these have sub-teachings to them, such as where all the medicines like sweetgrass came from, and what they mean.
For the Ojibwe Medicine Wheel teachings, go to http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/ojibwe.html.

The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee people are a confederacy of the Mohawk,Oneida, Onondoga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. We are people of the Longhouse, which is the centre of our traditional life and spiritual practices. Our languages are all related, but the western and the eastern
Iroquois have a bit of a different dialect. For example, the Mohawks say”Lodeenosaunee,” and the Senecas, they say “Haudenosaunee.
The Mohawks are a matrilineal people, so their clan comes from their mother. In Haudenosaunee cultures, you are born into a clan; you cannot buy into it or dream about it. So whatever your mother is, that’s what you are. And traditionally, when a man marries a woman, he has to move to her village,and everything has to go to the woman, including all the children. And you have to marry into another clan. So Wolf Clan cannot marry another wolf,or turtle marry another turtle, because they’re considered brother and sister.

The Mohawk assert thhat they have a  spiritual mindset. If you’re going to talk about a traditional way of understanding,
then you can’t view it the way a European views it; you can’t hear it the way a European hears it. You have to have a mind that has been trained how
to interpret the life forces in the world that the Mohawks  live in, in a way that is very different from the European way.

To know more about the worldview of the Mohawks visit http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/mohawk.html

The M’ikmaq believe that the first person that was created on this Earth was Glooscap, with his head lying in the direction of the rising sun, and his feet in the direction of the setting sun. And his arms were outstretched, one to the south, and one to the north.

And so Glooscap was created on the surface of the Earth, stretched out in the four directions. And he was created with all of the Earth’s elements:
the dirt and leaves, the plants and stones and wood. Everything was gathered together to form Glooscap on the surface of the earth.
But creation did not begin with Glooscap. He came to life within the SevenLevels of Creation, which are represented by the Seven sacred directions.

For the full introduction to the Seven Sacred Directions go to http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/mikmaq.html

The sacred teachings of these Native American tribes hold a special meaning for us in the modern times, for according to an ancient Mohawk Peacemaker Prophecy holds that:

“Whenever the people forget their teachings, the Creator calls upon the Sky Dweller beings to reintroduce what was forgotten. So throughout history, they’ve been sent here when we got unruly or forgot our spiritual teachings. Every once in a while, one of them is born to deliver a message from the Creator about what we should be doing. That’s where our Great Law
came from. The Bringer of that Great Law was our Peacemaker.When the Peacemaker came, He used the Tree of Peace, and he said at the base of the Tree would be Four White Roots, for east, north, west and south. That would proclaim the peace of nations in the world. That’s been in effect for many centuries, since he was born here as the Peacemaker.

The Real Iroquois never say the Peacemaker’s name, except when they’re raising a chief, or having an official reading of the Law. And it has to be prayed on, or tobacco burnt for it. But commonly, we never say that name, except with kids. I can tell my young son or daughter that name. But when I tell them, I say, “I’m not going to tell you anymore. From here on
you’ll never say that name.

We don’t say that name, because there’s a prophecy: when you hear people say that name, we are coming toward the end of the civilization of the world, where the world will something like almost end, and another one will start in a different way – a purification. The prophecy says that there will come a time when there will be discord amongst the leaders, and the people, and things will get really bad, like we’ve never seen before, in terms of disunity – great disrespect going on between humans. And that time is when there will be three left that still believe in what the
Creator gave us. Nobody understands what it means when they say three left – if it’s three nations, or three clans or three people. But whatever it means, three will be left. And they will go into the virgin forest, when they find it, if you can find it, where the big trees are – a real forest. And they will build a sacred fire there. And at that time they will cry the Peacemaker’s name three times. And then the Peacemaker will come back to lead us from all this turmoil, again. And so that’s why we’re not allowed to say that name just anytime. Only when we’re truly desperate
will we cry it in that ceremony, and then he will come back. But if you say it every day, when you really need Him, He thinks you’re just talkingabout his name – he’s not going to come back.

In the prophecy of the Great Law, it talks about that: when you hear people saying that name in regular conversation, that’s one of the signs we’re headed towards the other world. We tried telling some young people that, and they don’t listen. But that’s also part of what they told us would happen.”

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