By Rhonda Gladue
(Edmonton) – Wisdom keepers. Teachers. Human rights and environmental Activists. Kohkom knowledge has always been held in high-esteem because it is a spiritual gift that promotes the harmony and balance that we once had and hope to have again. Their teachings and stories about kinship, traditional values, languages, foods, spiritual ceremonies, legends, and child rearing practices go beyond the words themselves. They are what connects us to our ancestors and to each other. It is what we need on a communal, national and global scale to regain the balance and beauty of life we once had.
“Women hold the beauty ways, and therein lies our greatest hope. Those who know this will protect and defend them.” -Henry Laboucan
The Kohkom Kisewatisiwin Society is a group of Indigenous grandmothers who reside in Edmonton and throughout Western Canada. They engage with the community by sharing life’s wisdom, drawing from a wealth of traditional knowledge and personal experiences. Through storytelling they teach about the power and importance of healing, community, relationship building, and passing on cultural information.
The idea of this story-teaching publication began with collaborative work with Cree/Metis Elder Elsie Paul, founder of the Kohkom Kisewatisiwin Society. The name alone, “Kisewatisiwin,” (not easily translated into English) speaks to how one strives to apply the principles of gentle, loving kindness into all areas of life. Essentially, it is a way life.
Elsie, and other members of the Kisewatisiwin society, have dedicated their knowledge, time, and encouragement, all in the spirit of “Kisewatisiwin” to create a calendar that can be integrated into every Canadian classroom, organization, and home. The beautiful simplicity of these teachings reminds us to “pray everyday, and make kindness, forgiveness, and compassion a way of life.” All people can benefit from these gentle reminders coming from “our” Kohkoms.
“Kisewatisiwin is a principle of living in a good way. It implies a personal commitment to humility, prayer, and loving kindness towards all things.”
The Kohkom Kisewatisiwin Society and Circle Teachings Publishing have collaborated to produce “Stories from the Kohkoms” story calendar (first in series) designed to provide a platform which both showcases Kohkom knowledge and conveys its authenticity. This presentation of their teachings is designed to bring to light their value, at a time when the call for the retention of values, moral and connections is essential for coming generations. Teachings such as “Water is Life” remind us that water has a spirit that sustains us and when pollute the water, the loss is immeasurable. With growing climate change concerns, coming back to these teachings is vital to sustain our mother earth, which in turn, sustains us.
“We are all guardians of the earth and it our responsibility to relearn the knowledge we once held; the one that shows us how to be kind to the earth and be kind to one another.”