Original Instructions

Elders such as Art Solomon often spoke about the Original Instructions. The Original Instructions are ways of living from the heart of humanity within the heart of nature….reminding us about gratitude, kinship, and a reverence for community and creation. Human beings have forgotten their instructions. What is wrong with people? Why is there war, violence, oppression, greed, injustice, poverty, indifference and destruction of the environment? Because people have forgotten these Original Instructions.

All of Creation is formed by them – what some refer to as Natural Law, Dharma, or Tao. In addition to what is hardwired in our living cells by DNA, human beings learn other instructions about living and relating through the teachings of the communities where they are raised. Those instructions for successful and happy relationships with families and communities and with all life, the Earth and the Cosmos, were passed down through the generations by Elders, who lived successfully and happily by them until they were invaded by newer cultures of domination, oppression and greed. In a culture of domination there is more violence, more fear, more isolation, and less love and happiness than in the old ways of all people at one time, ways of cooperation and equality, of respect and relatedness and thanksgiving.

Many now believe that these teachings need to be brought to the world as they are not just Indigenous but actually Human Being teachings….and should be shared to any who seek and wish for that knowledge.

I believe that these Original Instructions are the basis for all human belief systems….whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever way one chooses to believe. If you took the Bible, the Koran, or any other religious book ….then distill it down to their very basic teachings….removing any of the interpretations of the men who have read such books….I believe you would find many of the same essential guidelines. Because they would speak of having a Good Life….being kind to each other….treating each other with respect….loving one another….and so on.

In the Seven Fires Prophecy, there are the two roads that the light-skinned race will have to choose in the time of the Seventh Fire. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people. The right road leads back to the Original Instructions.






the arrangement of parts or elements in a different form, figure, or combination

From the Anishinaube Thesaurus by Basil Johnston:

“Our word for truth or correctness or any of its synonyms is w’dae’b’wae, meaning “he or she is telling the truth, is right, is correct, is accurate.” From its composition—the prefix dae, which means “as far as, in as much as, according to,” and the root wae, a contraction of waewae, referring to sound—emerges the second meaning, which gives the sense of a person casting his or her knowledge as far as he or she can. By implication, the person whom is said to be dae’b’wae is acknowledged to be telling what he or she knows only in so far as he or she has perceived what he or she is reporting, and only according to his or her command of the language. In other words, the speaker is exercising the highest degree of accuracy possible given what he or she knows. In the third sense, the term conveys the philosophic notion that there is no such thing as absolute truth.”

So maybe we should think about ‘our truth’….that we should try exercising the highest degree of accuracy possible given what we know….but remember that others may have their own truths too.

Having said that, Native people have their own truths….their own story….that only they should tell. Just like any others have their own truths….their own stories to tell. So Native culture or traditions or teachings are best provided by Native people. Native people should be leading their ceremonies….teach about their history….telling their story through their music and dance. Just as others should. We can sit at the same table together….but we must find a way to hear each others’ truths too. Told in the original first person narrative. We should hear each others’ truth from an original source.

This is very applicable to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Will truth bring reconciliation? Justice Murray Sinclair says not without education. The TRC recommends the history of residential schools be added to all education material so that future generations know the story. Justice Murray Sinclair said: “But in addition to that, the way that schools treat indigenous history also needs to be re-evaluated and rethought and recast.”

The beginning of history for Canadian students generally begins with the arrival of Europeans. “There’s no history taught about the period before 1492 and that’s crazy because there’s a whole rich history there that we should be talking about,” says Justice Murray Sinclair.

“We have all been taught to believe in aboriginal inferiority and European superiority and that’s wrong.”- Justice Murray Sinclair

Reconciliation is not just about saying one is sorry….or one can forgive….it requires more than just words….it is about taking action. It is not up to Indigenous Canadians to figure out how to make reconciliation work….time and time again Indigenous Canadians have gone to the non-Natives….now is the time for non-Natives to come to Indigenous peoples….it’s time….the conversation is needed now. But on Indigenous terms. Don’t expect Indigenous people to ‘get over it’….or even jump up and down when their traditional territories are finally acknowkledged in the schools. It’s about time actually. Reconciliation should be tied to the land that Indigenous peoples are connected. This is a time for a climate change of a different matter….a change in the climate of thought….of approach….of behaviour….and maybe now is the time….as we are now in a new climate of change.

The Two Row Wampum speaks of friendship, respect and peace. The belt is fashioned with two rows of purple wampum (traditional shell beads) alternating with three rows of white. The white wampum represent peace, friendship and respect while the purple ones depict the paths of two vessels traveling together on the river of life. One vessel, a birch bark canoe, is for the Indigenous people and their customs and laws and the other, a sailing ship, is for the European settlers and their customs and laws. The pact promised that each would travel the river together but in separate boats, parallel but never touching, pledging that “neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.” That the ends remain unfinished is representative of the fact that the stories of both peoples have both a long history and a future that is still being written. Their stories intertwine like the tassels of the belt and like the waters of the river. They will continue on down this river together in peace and friendship as long as the grass is green, the water flows, and the sun rises in the east.

The canoe increased our reach to shape the Canada we know today, carrying many to otherwise inaccessible landscapes. The canoe was a gift from First Nations to the immigrants from distant lands who used inadequate modes of transport, reflective of a different worldview. It was a gift that allowed the newcomers to flourish and grow. Most certainly, the canoe played a pivotal role in our collective past but it also has a significant role to play in our future.

The canoe worked with our geography to navigate waterways that connected people for trading and sharing. The shapes and patterns of each craft reflected individual personality, local culture and various functions, but often sharing the same general principles of design and construction. The canoe epitomized balance, strength, beauty, function and adaptability. It was built from various gifts of Mother Earth, shaped from the bounty of our wilderness, its design handed down through the generations, infused with spirit and responsible connections to a sustainable environment.

Today the canoe continues to teach us. It offers us an opportunity to understand and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of First Nations peoples. These contributions have long been absent from our historical narratives. It invites authentic questions and encourages connected thinking in a variety of different ways. It can serve as a catalyst for a transdisciplinary, holistic approach that can offer meaning and insight into the values and worldviews of the people who created it. It provides opportunities to learn about each other.

We need to refloat or right the canoe that is Canada, especially as we work towards reconciliation. This is both hope and challenge for us; what we strive towards as real possibility for a shared future; to remind Canadians that we’re all in the same canoe and that to make this country work we should all be paddling together.

We can learn a lot from paddling a canoe. The canoe can be a means to understanding much more about both Native and non-Native peoples. Especially about our shared histories. And where we can go from here.

AND we should never forget that the canoe also ties us to the land….to the water….AND that WATER IS LIFE!!!!

2016-12-15 08.45.53



canoe - Copy (2).png



I found myself feeling conflicted over the past few days.

On Friday and Saturday, I took part in Indspire’s National Gathering for Indigenous Educators at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I was one of the presenters at this Gathering (I co-presented on The Canoe As A Teaching Tool).

Constant reference was made at the opening ceremony….breakfasts and luncheons….of the partners and sponsors of Indspire….and how great such organizations were. Companies like Suncor….Shell….Imperial. Natural resource based companies. Friday’s schedule was sponsored by TD. Bharat Masrani, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, TD Bank Group spoke at Fridays luncheon, expounding how great TD supports Indigenous education….how TD supports Indigenous communities ( a booklet was left on each chair at the luncheon, before we even got there, on TD and Indigenous Communities in Canada). Similar statements were made from high profile reprsentatives of funders like Suncor and Shell. Each was usually with introduced with great fanfare….great praise of how wonderful each is.

I found myself squirming in my seat uncomfortably….even thinking to myself that I was giving in….becoming like the deer caught in the headlights….won over by shiny trinkets like good food….and a complimentary room in the Royal York. I wasn’t even sure I could make the March in Support Of Standing Rock held yesterday in Toronto….due to a ‘time conflict’.

Don’t get me wrong….I think Indspire does great work….that the National Gathering for Indigenous Educators was a great opportunity to meet and learn from others….share with and bring awareness to others. And even my discomfort with Indspire’s funders led to discussion with others sitting at the same table at meals….and many didn’t know TD’s role in the pipleline that was behind the Standing Rock protest. Murray Sinclair and Lorne Cardinal were both insighful in their respective keynote speeches. SO not all was bad with the Indspire National Gathering.

BUT after the National Gathering ended, I rushed home, changed quickly and made it down in time to take part in the March in Support of Standing Rock. Literally 1000s of people gathering to support not only Standing Rock, but Mother Earth. I don’t see myself as an activist….not a protestor….but as a protector….a land defender. I was proud to see the turn out at the March. The positive energy that was part of the March. The support provided to Standing Rock….and Mother Earth. The love given to Standing Rock….to Mother Earth.

This morning I found an email with a survey from Indspire about what I thought of the National Gathering for Indigenous Educators. Often I don’t take the time to answer such surveys….too much bother I guess. BUT this time I had some comments I felt needed to be made….and hopefully heard.

I expressed concern over the decision of the Royal York Hotel as a venue….when even doing a simple smudge indoors was not allowed. To me this just added to a feeling of being caught up in a colonization process.

I expressed my concerns over Indspire’s funders and sponsors. How Canada, one of the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. That Canadians are too often driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. How when the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, we will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that we can’t eat money.

That Indspire could take a true leadership role by divesting itself of such funders….of such interests. That none of such interests is doing any real favours to Indigenous people….or non-Indigenous people either. And such interests do not need to be puffed up or praised for doing good deeds when in reality they are adding to the rape and exploitation of Mother Earth. Money from such interests is tainted….and often only given so the donor can look good.

I also decided I couldn’t support Indspire, in good conscience, as long as Indspire was involved with such interests. That I would not take part in….or support….or even recommend future National Gatherings for Indigenous Educators….as long as such interests were involved.

That is what I said in the survey I sent back. I might not be that important a participant….BUT I have a voice….and I can make myself heard if I choose to. And if enough voices say the same thing who knows what can be accomplished….maybe real change. SO I hope all of the voices that were part of the March in Support of Standing Rock are heard….and that Indspire hears my single voice (especially if I am all that speaks out….although I am sure I’m not).

I know you have to walk your walk….not just talk the talk. I am proud to have taken part in the March yesterday….and that I let Indspire know exactly how I felt.

Everyone has a voice….and should be heard….no matter how insignificant….or significant….and we are all significant. If we believe in something enough….if something is important enough….then we should speak out. We should make ourselves heard.

Mother Earth is significant….to all of us.

The protection of Mother Earth….of the land….of the water….and everything else that Mother Earth is made up of….because as Indigenous people know everything in this world is connected….including us humans….and as such Mother Earth is worth protecting. She is our home. Without her, we cannot survive. We need to protect her….defend her.

SO until Indspire changes its ways of being funded and sponsored I cannot support….or take part in anything pertaining to….such an organization. Any more than I can with TD. Or any ‘natural resource based’ companies (which is really a misnomer….there is nothing truly naturally based or even resource based about such companies….they are based on greed and profit….at the expense of Mother Earth).

Because truly the natural resources of Mother Earth are gifts from the Creator….the beauty of the wild places….the bounty of the land and the waters that so many (especially Indigenous) peoples need to subsist….all we know really is a result of all that Mother Earth and Creation has to offer. Without connections to the land there is no language and no culture. And to have any such connection to the land….to the water….we need to have healthy land and water to connect with.

And it is time to get back to the Original Instructions….to live in a good way….to lead a good life….with love and respect for all things in Creation….even each other.

Paddles up until later.

Miigwech for listening to my rant.


Mike (W’ dae b’ wae)

Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan (Birch Bark Canoe): The Culture and Tradition of the Canoe….And Its Sustainability: Bark Build At Evergreen Brick Works

I got incredible news:

Notification Letter from Toronto Arts Council

September 20, 2016

To: Mike Ormsby

I am pleased to inform you that the Toronto Arts Council Board of Directors has approved funding to support your project.

Applicant Name: Mike Ormsby
Application ID: 7947 | Animating Historic Sites
Application Year:2016
Amount: $28,550.00

Project Summary:

Mike Ormsby will present Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan (Birch Bark Canoe): The Culture and Tradition of the Canoe….And Its Sustainability, a birch bark canoe build at Evergreen Brick Works. Through the culture and the traditions involved, the canoe can be a means to understanding much more about both Native and non-Native peoples, our shared histories, and where we can go from here….

On behalf of the Board, I would like to congratulate you on receiving this grant and wish you success with your work….

Indiegogo Campaign

Check out this Indiegogo campaign, CANOE TRADITIONS:


You CAN help create NEW TRADITIONS for Anishinaabe youth through CANOE TRADITIONS.

Through CANOE TRADITIONS, Anishinaabe youth CAN reNEW old TRADITIONS.

Through CANOE TRADITIONS, Anishinaabe youth find their roots travelling traditional canoe routes.

Facebook Page: