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Article: World View and Beliefs

Creator

The Saulteaux Believed that the Creator was just that, the being who created everything, including the earth itself. The Saulteaux called this being Kitse-manito or Great Spirit. They believed that the Great Spirit lived in the sky to watch over his children. During prayer, one did not directly involve Kitse-manito into their blessings. It was thought that he was too powerful to be directly involved with the affairs of man (as man was viewed as one of the less important creatures of the earth). Instead prayer was given to the animal spirits which were thought to have served the Great Spirit in his affairs. The animal spirits that were prayed to were thought to carry the prayers to Kitse-manito much like Christian religion views Jesus Christ as carrying prayer to God.

As is common with most First Nations, the belief in the Great Spirit is not atomistic but holistic. This means that the Great Spirit is everywhere at every time. Each and every day, The teachings of the Great Spirit are integrated into the teachings of life. Most behaviour in daily life was accompanied by some sort of spiritual gratitude (no matter how seemingly insignificant). This constant giving of thanks better reinforces the concept of holism in Saulteaux society. One of the most important aspects of spiritual worship was the giving of thanks for the many gifts the Great Spirit bestowed upon the Earth.

One thing that is a consistent in Saulteaux culture (and many other First Nation's cultures) is the number four. The gifts that were given to the earth, and all that dwell on it, seem to be in fours. The Saulteaux believe that without these gifts, the earth could not come into being and the creatures upon it as well. Each gift is no more important than the other is because it is believed that without one the other could not come into being (balance).

Such gifts would be the elements; there are four that exist to sustain life: rock, fire, wind, and water. The rock is the element that is believed to give the Saulteaux people strength. It is seen as what the earth is made out of (indestructible) and therefore viewed and respected in such a manner. Fire is the element that was given to man to survive. It helps one stay warm especially during the intensely cold winters. At times fire was the determining factor between survival and death. This is why fire is revered as such a powerful element and also such a precious gift. The wind is the element that represents the life force that we breathe. Without breathing a man can exist for only a very short while (minutes). The air is also a precious gift that is not to be taken lightly. Water is the element that represents life itself, without water nothing could live. Since man relies on earth's creatures for its well being, water is seen as a precious gift.

The next group of four gifts is related to the elements. They are the sun, earth, stars, and moon. The sun is the gift that gives life to ALL. The sun is responsible for giving all living things their life force and also gives heat to keep the creatures of the earth warm. The sun is seen as a representation of Kitsi-manito and as such is revered greatly. The earth is viewed as a maternal figure (Mother Earth) because the earth gives the power of growth and life from out of it. The earth represents a woman because it constantly gives birth. The stars are a gift of guidance and direction (the four directions). They led travellers on a path that was true. The stars symbolised the direction that one was supposed travel in his/her lifetime (living righteously). The stars were also thought to be the ancestors (grandmothers and grandfathers) of the Saulteaux. The moon is a representation of the cycles that are a part of existence (lifecycle, seasons, etc). It provides us with a sense of time (of year). The moon cycles (new moon, quarter moon, half moon, full moon) govern the behaviour of the earth's creatures.

As with the moon, all forms and function in life are viewed to travel and progress in cycles. But we must not forget the number four as well in Saulteaux ideology. This number is very significant in all aspects and cycles of life.
· 4 stages of man (baby, child, adult, and Elder)
· 4 races of man (First Nations, European, Oriental, and African)
· 4 human elements (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)
· 4 directions (north, east, south, west)
· 4 seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter)

The fact that these occur in cycles (infinite) reinforces the fact that renewal is a constant part of Saulteaux ideology.

Roles of the creatures of the Earth

Plants

There are seen to be four types of plant life. It should be known that plants were seen to have a soul just as any other living creature on the earth. The four types of plant life were trees, grasses, flowers, and vegetables. The trees were seen as the provider of shelter and other tools that were crafted from them. This resource wasn't merely used and disregarded or taken for granted. Thanks were always given and tobacco always offered to the spirit of the tree that gave its existence for the protection and survival of the people. The grasses of the land played an important role as well. Grass fed the buffalo, one of the most important resources to the Plains Indian. Sweetgrass, a very sacred plant, was also used for prayer and ceremony. Both man and animal for survival used the flower. The Saulteaux used flowers for such things as flavour in tea and other cuisine. Animals used flowers for food (e.g. Insects, deer, etc). The vegetables that surrounded the Saulteaux people were used for food.

Animals

The animals of the land played one of the most important roles around. This was so because their actions directly affected the environment around them. The animals of the land were divided into four types: four legged, two legged, winged, and aquatic. It was the duty of the four and two legged creatures of the land to take care of it. These creatures were appointed by Kitsi-manito to be the caretakers of the earth. The winged creatures of the earth were seen to have the responsibility of being the caretakers of the sky. As with the land and air, there were also seen to be caretakers of the water. These creatures included the fish and other aquatic creatures (beaver, muskrat, etc).

Mother Earth

Every single living being on earth depends on Mother Earth for their survival. She is seen as the Grandest Mother of all living things. The Saulteaux people are thankful for what Mother Earth provides for them. Such things as food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and tools would not be here if it weren't for Mother Earth creating them. Without such resources the Saulteaux would not survive. This is why such gratitude and reverence is given to Mother Earth.

Prayer and Ceremony

There were (and still are) many ways for the Saulteaux people to give thanks to Kitsi-manito and Mother Earth. Such ceremonies were the sweat lodge ceremony, pipe ceremony, rain dance, sun dance, and council dance.

Beliefs and values

There is a system of philosophies that govern the manner in which First Nation come to treat the earth, its creatures and fellow man. There are twelve such philosophies.

Obedience

We learn by listening to traditional stories. By listening to our parents or guardians, our fellow students and our teachers. We learn by their behaviors and their reminders, so that we know what is right and what is wrong.

Kinship

Our family is important to us. This includes our parents, our brothers and sisters who love us and give us roots, the roots that tie us to the lifeblood of the earth. It also includes extended family: Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and their in-laws and children. These are also our brothers and sisters and they give us a sense of belonging to a community.

Respect

We must give honour to our Elders and fellow students and the strangers that come into our community. We must honour other peoples' rights.

Humility

We are not above or below others in the circle of life. We feel humbled when we understand our relationship with Creation. We are so small compared to the expanse of Creation. "We are just a strand in the web of life," and we respect and value life.

Compassion

We must learn to be patient in times of trouble and not to complain but to endure and show under standing. We must accept difficulties and tragedies so that we may give others strength to accept their own tragedies and difficulties.

Love

If we are to live in harmony we must accept one another as we are and to accept others who are not in our circle. Love means to be kind and good to one another.

Generosity/Sharing

We learn to be part of the family by helping in providing food or other basic needs. This is sharing responsibilities in order to enjoy them.

Happiness

We must show enthusiasm to encourage others at social functions. Our actions will make our ancestors happy in the next world.

Faith

We must learn to believe and trust one another, to believe in a power greater than ourselves whom we worship and who gives us strength to be a worthy member of the human race.

Cleanliness

We must learn not to inflict ills on others, for if we do it to ourselves. Clean thoughts come from a clean mind and this comes from First Nation's spirituality. Good health habits also reflect a clean mind

Thankfulness

We learn to give thanks for all the kind things that others do for us and for the Creator's bounty, which we are privileged to share with others in the spirit of love.

Good Child Rearing

Children are unique and blessed with the gift of life. We are responsible for their well being, spirituality, emotionally, physically and for their intellectual development. They represent the continuity of our circle of life, which we perceive to be the Creator's will.

Hope

We must hope for better things to make life easier for us, our families and the community, both materially and spiritually.

Legends and Stories

There are many stories and legends that the Saulteaux people have come to know. These stories reinforce the oral culture that First Nation's people have come to identify with over time. The basis of an oral culture to the Saulteaux is that language is a gift from Kitsi-manito. It is seen as a gift because it was observed that no other creature could talk like man. The Saulteaux see the gift of language as a means to communicate with Kitsi-manito. It (language) was seen as a gift also because the stories that were told in their culture were a means to establish social expectations and norms. Such legends and stories were the basis for a code of morals and beliefs that the Saulteaux people lived by. Such are the stories of Nanabush and Wisakicak.

Conclusion

It should be known that the laws and beliefs depicted in this work are not a hierarchy. According to the Saulteaux culture, all of the things that exist on the earth are equally important to Kitsi-manito. The relationships that exist in the world were viewed more so as a web than a hierarchy. Without one gift or creature on earth we could not have the others. The teachings of the Great Spirit dictated that everything must achieve a sense of balance and harmony with the others.

Out of all the aspects (gifts) mentioned in this work, man is the least important of them all. Man is seen to have no effect on the great cycles of life and as such is deemed to take care of the creations brought forth for him.