“I’ll sing to you, until you sing back” – those words written by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson were not written for the climate, still, I believe it is time for us to sing back to the Earth who has and is singing to us from the beginning of our time here!
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I believe that, for us to come to terms with what we have done to the Earth, the animals, the water, the plants, the air, the level of destruction, of abuse and exploitation, we need to learn and practice the Thanksgiving Address, a inestimable teaching by the Haudenosaunee people. It has been a powerful practice for me to read it out loud, especially when I am by the sea, or in the woods. Even here where I live in Mile-End, Montreal. The gratitude, the sense of abundance, of I am and what I have is enough, have since filled my heart and bridged my ways of understanding the world with this precious ancient, and more than needed today, teachings.
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Nature is not an IT, far from it. If we could see / feel that, we would never use it as a pronoun while referring to all living things. And by doing so, our whole relationship to Nature, and to one another by extension, would drastically / compassionately change. We would be more caring and we would take care of our environments by honoring them as we would of our loved ones.
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This is the teaching of Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book “Braiding Sweetgrass” more specifically in the chapter “Learning the language of animacy”.
“Imagine seeing your grandmother standing at the stove in her apron and then saying of her, “Look, it is making soup. It has gray hair.” We might snicker at such a mistake, but we also recoil from it. In English, we never refer to a member of our family, or indeed to any person, as it. That would be a profound act of disrespect. It robs a person of selfhood and kinship, reducing a person to a mere thing. So it is that in Potawatomi and most other indigenous languages, we use the same words to address the living world as we use for our family”… p.55
“A language teacher I know explained that grammar is just the way we chart relationships in language. Maybe it also reflects our relationships with each other. Maybe a grammar of animacy could lead us to whole new ways of living in the world, other species a sovereign people, a world with a democracy of species, not a tyranny of one – with moral responsibility to water and wolves, and with legal system that recognizes the standing of other species. It’s all in the pronouns”… p.57
“I’m not advocating that we all learn Potowatomi or Hope or Semiole, even if we could. Immigrants came to these shores bearing a legacy of languages, all to be chereished. But to become native to this place, if we are to survive here, and our neighbors too, our work is to lean to speak the grammar of animacy, so that we might truly be at home”… p.58
“Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants”, Robin Wall Kimmerer, milkweed editions, 2013
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As we were walking back home, there were food leftovers on the sidewalk. My granddaughter’s couldn’t help herself: « They didn’t go to the demonstration. »
Closer to the Champs-de-Mars metro, there was a concrete shelter full of mattresses and half of them were occupied by people, how do I make her understand that taking care of the climate and taking care of the marginalized ones is one and the same? That they are all our relatives? It is for sure going a conversation that we will have again and again in the years to come, she is only 5.