Who I Am
“Introduce yourself in the language of the land, because that is what the land understands,” my Elders teach. By “the language,” they mean the tongue of the indigenous people, as it echoes the life song of the waters and hills, the trees and animals, and the unseen, unknown energies.
The language of the land on which I dwell is Ojibwe, and according to my honored Ojibwe Elder Keewaydinoquay, here is how I am to introduce myself:
Mashkigwatig w Nagamon nindizhnikaz
Tamarack Song is my name
Owl is my animal guide
The classic Zen seeker is known as an unassuming, wandering fool, and that is how I view myself. Because the fool stumbles and falls, he becomes a sturdy trekker. He owns nothing, therefore he has no master. With no expectations placed upon him, he is free to follow his heart. Not claiming to know anything, he is open to all knowledge; and since he has no beliefs, he finds truth in the least likely of places.
What kind of fool I am might best be seen by who I am to others. My Elders tell me we are each given a special talent to develop for the purpose of serving our people. This is our lifepath, our reason for being. We are nothing by ourselves; rather, we are a manifestation of our people–a continuum that spans from the ancestors to the unborn.
Only a fool would live to serve his people before himself. And perhaps only a fool could do so. Foolishness however, is not enough; clarity of lifepath is also needed. Mine came when respected elder Makwa Giisis left me alone on a ridge high on Vision Mountain to fast and wait for word.
I was told that I was intended to be a bridge that brings the ancestral ways of balance to this time of turmoil. My gift to my people would be to help them rediscover what it is to be human. They would then be able to return to the traditions of living in honor and respect for the Earth, themselves, and each other. To accomplish this, I would need to know the languages and practices of both the natural and modern worlds, because I would be functioning in both. This is why school and television, along with native Elders and animal guides, have been a part of my upbringing.