When I was growing up, I never worried about the bills being paid each month. These concerns were beyond my comprehension, grasp, and concern. As I got a little older, I started to realize the magnitude of all the regular bills that a responsible adult needed to pay.
As I was learning about the early fur trade and the treaties that were made here in Canada between some of the Indigenous people and early settlers, I read a statement made by a Nehiyawak (Cree) Elder. The statement had to do with God the Creator being much more capable of taking care of them than any government with any treaty or agreement. This was a good reminder for me as an adult with responsibilities and a connection to the land.
The Nehiyawak Elder said, “You are telling us all this, (yet) you will never be able to treat us the way we are treated by Manito. Look at this land with its abundance of food for us. You’ll never be able to match that; you will not be able to do this.” As these words were being spoken, as the steady advancement of this new civilization in Canada was being formed, the near-extinction of the buffalo and the beaver was taking shape.
The word “Manitou,” according to the Algonquian religious belief system, refers to a supernatural force connected with humans and spirits. The Plains Cree word for what is referred to as “Manito” in this quotation is Kisê-manitow, which means the Creator, the Great Spirit. When I’m referring to what this Cree Elder said, I’m referring to God as the Bible describes him to be.
There are so many variations in the Indigenous languages across North America that it’s virtually impossible to use a “correct” term that satisfies us all. Even within the Cree language, there are different types of Cree dialects, never mind other language groups such as Algonquian. So even within this column, we all can learn something new about Indigenous people.
Matthew 6:26-27 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Jesus is saying that not only are the birds of the air taken care of, but we are even more important than the birds. God through Jesus takes care of us and provides for us all as humans. He is the Creator and sustainer of us all.
The next time I feel overwhelmed about my bills, I need to take all these words to heart and relax. God through Jesus Christ works through people to help us with what we need, but it is still God who is doing the providing. Whether it was my Indigenous people a few hundred years ago, my parents who have passed on, or myself, we all relied on God to provide in ways that no other person or government ever could. I thank you, Kisê-manitow—God—for being my provider!