The cloak of life is not a can of paint

God’s eyes were not closed
when our people were created.
His head was not turned.
Nor his thoughts far away
on a task of more importance.
His mind was not distracted,
Nor his heart locked away
in a dark uncaring place,
unaware of our existence.

For God was our Creator too.

With gentle hands and loving heart,
from four parts of Creation,
He moulded our ancient ones.
He placed his loving words
inside their hearts and minds
He breathed his guiding spirit
into the center of their souls,
and in so doing, with the body and the mind
He made them whole.

He showed us his existence
and inspired us to voice and sing
our love and praise for him
and for all of the Creation he had made,
as well as for the life he had bestowed.
A life and land which he had always meant
fo us to use and to protect
for all of our time here on this earth

We loved our Kishay Manitou
and believed that he felt only love for us.
And deep within the center of our souls,
we lived and breathed that thought
It kept us warm and made us feel we all belonged
to something pure and strong.
Our love for life was there within
each living child and ancient one

We truly knew.
We had the right to be
Anishinaabe, strong and free
That very right was told to us
in every story, every song
Creation stories,
We were taught
were always true and never wrong.

And then those others came along
and with their twisted words and thoughts
declared that all his work with us was wrong
and that our sense of him was false.
They made us deeply sick with growing doubt
As, slowly, harshly, deeply
in a vicious rising tide of disrespect
they stole away our spirit
piece by piece,
child by child,
until we woke one dark and lonely day
And found
that our spirit and our faith
were twisted up into a tiny shrinking ball
descending down a dark and dirty hole
and, then, without a warning sound or gasp
were gone.

And when we cried in lonely, empty, pain
They said it was a sign our god was weak
and that we must believe their god was strong
and that we should all fall down on our knees
and pray with them and sing their songs
and somehow that would save us
from that evil place they said
where dwelt our Gitche Manitou
a place we once had sweetly called our own.

They did not know
that it was in their very doubt
where dwelt the source of illness
that infected all of us they touched
And that the best they could achieve
Was to leave us spinning in the wind
No longer feeling part
of our Manitou’s Creation.

They took us off our spirit road
And tried to make us walk inside their shoes
but when we looked behind
We could not see
The point where our creation had begun
And when we looked ahead,
we could not hear
the voices of our mothers calling out
Nor see the light of fires
Showing our way home
We were confused and felt that we were lost
As, indeed, we were.

The spirits that were placed in each of us
were not allowed to dance
or sing our songs
and constantly they came under attack
and so
they ran away and hid
in places dark but safe
Ready to embrace and be embraced
When freedom time would come

In patience, they sat silently
and waited
And they waited
And they waited
And they waited
And they wait

Our minds and bodies,
left behind,
sometimes filled the void
with other spirit teachings
and in those foreign words
some solace found
Yet many could not feel
and many would not seek
Creator’s love
in all those rituals and words

Emptied of their sense of life
many staggered through existence
weighted by despair
falling, rising, falling,
sometimes lying still
waiting for it all to end
and for far too many
the end would come
without a sign
of how to find the path
to go back to Creator’s side
they wander here among us still.

And when the law of man
at last declared this evil-doing wrong
and their descendants came to us
asking for forgiveness
offering their words and beads
designed to cure our broken lives, they said
they still did not believe
their words and beads alone
could not repair,
what had been stolen, damaged and undone.

They still could not believe
that the damage goes on yet today
by teaching children
nothing of this past
So they will never know
It was not always thus

They still do not believe
That God created us as well as them

They still cannot accept
That our healing starts from deep within the soul
Where the spirit placed there by Creator sits

They do not understand
That our spreading sickness lies within the fact
we can no longer sing our healing songs
And that our healing voices have been stilled.
And that our healing cannot come
From any sort of magic little pill

But now that we are finally freed
Of heavy chains of aging pain
and that we can live unrestrained
we go about in hungry search
of all those spirits hidden, almost lost
And there is great rejoicing
when connections can be strongly made.

But sadly some have found
That their spirits have been locked away,
so well and and for so long
that they can no longer be retrieved,

Some do not recognize them when they’re found
Or, desperate,
their hunger drives them blindly to
another devil’s hands

It will take time to heal these many wounds
to overcome the anger and the rage
to see the beauty of and live a promised life
to find our path in this far different age

To live together side by side
was always the Creator’s sacred test
but first we must determine
how to stand
and walk the path
our spirits know the best

we cannot rush
but life is going by
and things are moving at an urgent rate
so  with a sense of  need we must proceed
to honour dreams
and fill our fate
and know the easy way we cannot take
The cloak of life is not a can of paint
It takes a lifetime to create.


About Senator Murray Sinclair (retired)

Ojibway Anishinaabe Inini Mizhanagheezhik (n’dizhinikaaz) Namiigoonse (n’dodem) Lawyer, Mediator, Public Speaker Currently Canadian Senator for Manitoba Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba (2001-2016) Associate Chief Judge off the Manitoba Provincial Court) (1988-2001) Co-Commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba) (1988-91) Paediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquiry Judge (1997-2000) Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2009-2015) Thinker, poet, writer, philosopher, speaker.
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2 Responses to The cloak of life is not a can of paint

  1. hansong says:

    Thank you for sharing another insightful and thought piece.


    Gregg Hanson

    Proud Manitoban and Canadian



  2. Roxanne says:

    Heartbreakingly beautiful


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