Yesterday were at the monthly Longhouse celebrations at Wahta. Our Sachem (Faith Keeper) is since recently teaching some courses on Native studies at Georgian college in Barrie = 100 km south of the res. and from the course had invited some students to come up and join us for the celebrations this month. The students he invited however were newly landed immigrants– from Pakistan and Syria. Only as soon as they came through the door it was clear, that few of the Longhouse participants had any idea, about what it means to BE Muslim.
5 young guys had brought their veiled women and small kids and also 1 set of doting parents and a friend from Syria, that was in the country less than a week and spoke no English. So I ended up explaining to everyone, that, no, there is NO pork in any of the pot-luck dishes, we had Beaver stew, Venison and Moose.
What what IS Beaver??? Is it halal?
What is venison?? What is a moose????? Is it halal?
I explained, that all meat is blessed by the person that killed it using the smoke of Cedar and Tobacco and the Spirit of the Animal is send home to its Ancestors, to be born again. So happily our friends dug in.
They however had brought a rice dish that blew everyone’s mind, it was so spicy!
Then, no sooner were tables and dishes cleared away to make room for the round dances, that it was time for our guests to pray.
They asked, can we do this here in the Longhouse??
Our Sachem is– aehmm…. – not known for being a very flexible adaptive person.
After all he has to “hold on” and keep the Faith pure against all outside influences…..
So no, you can not pray in the Longhouse!
But now praying outside – in the snow that was coming down – and in the pitch dark cooooold?????
When I offered to give them a large comforter as a blanket to kneel on, they asked the Faith Keeper, iffff the shaman lady is willing to be helpful and accommodating, could not he too…….
He said nothing and they just knelt down right in front of all of us and prayed.
I am sure, it gave all the usual Longhouse visitors an opportunity to think and reflect…….
I decided to also pray, quietly– for cross cultural understanding and tolerance.
Then we proceeded with the usual “Standing Quiver Dance”, followed by traditional teachings – this time around Beaver and Deer hunting, Corn bread and marriage customs, when the woman goes out to choose a husband -among others…..
Our Muslim friends were all encouraged to join in the dances. The men did with gusto and also used our horn rattles in the Women’s Honour Dance.
The women did not dance. It took a while until my Mohawk friends understood, that Muslim Women are not permitted to dance in front of men. – So I went over to them to talk and teach. They told me, that they were astounded at Native customs and the matrilineal Clan system and the leadership of the Clan Mother.
I took the time to show them around the Longhouse, pointing out all our beautiful Wampum Belts and explaining their history and specific meanings. I let them reverently touch the mighty Wolf fur at the side of the Wolf Clan and explained our ceremonial Turtle Shell Rattles and a few other things.
There was also the “thing with the Red Indians”
“Red Indian” is not an appropriate term – rather use Native American or First Nations Person….”
“Oh” said one of the ladies, “That is the same as people calling us Pakies”
(Oh maaan, I do not even know, how to write that word…)
And trying to explain that Ojibwa and Mohawk and Sioux are not different casts, but tribes, formerly independent Nations, now coexisting within Canada (or at least try to…..!!)
At the end of our gathering, after the last Stick Dancer gave up hollering for more songs and the Clan Mother did the Closing Prayers, we go around in the circle and everyone is giving everyone else a by by hug.
Of course the Muslim ladies can not allow another man to hug them, so after I explained that to the Clan Mother, everyone agreed, that a handshake would be good Medicine as well.
I hope we see our new friends again next month.