Minobimaadiziwin / The Good Life

My grandfather was a good man. His life was guided by the principals embedded in Minobimaadiziwin, ‘the good life’’

Anishinaabe teachings tell us that everything is endowed with an energy that acts as a conduit to connect us all to each other and to the earth. To live Minobimaadiziwin is to live a life that is balanced, and in connection with family, community, and the land.

It’s an intentional path for how one chooses to navigate the world. These connections necessitate obligations and duties for how one respects the interconnectedness of us all. Like many honourable men of his generation he fought for Canada in World War 2. Unlike many of the good men that he fought alongside with, he was not allowed to vote. And still he served; led by a principle larger than the divisive one of the government of Canada.

I must clarify, since Confederation, Indians were offered the right to vote. They just had to give up their treaty rights and sign away their Indian status. Basically they just had to become white on paper, and in exchange they would be allowed to vote. It took until 1960 before Canada would extend the right to vote without any strings attached.

Like many men from that generation, he never spoke of his 5 years ‘away.’ The only acknowledgement of his time in the war came every Remembrance day when he and my grandmother would put on their Sunday best and attend services at the local cenotaph. And now it’s our turn to put on our Sunday best, spit smooth cowlicks, shine raggedy well worn boots and stand in the cold November air.

In Ontario Remembrance day isn’t marked as a public holiday. When we first moved out west, I recall feeling concerned that Remembrance Day is considered just an excuse for a day off. The reality is that for our family this day has ended up having more significance than Family Day.

We spend it together in a meaningful way. My sons aren’t regaled with mythic heroic war stories. Because that’s not the truth of what war is. Not even a little bit. They know that they will be cold and expected to be still and solemn. They know that their mom will cry, and that there will be leftover Halloween candy packed to keep the morale up.

They know the meaning of the phrase ‘lest we forget’ means that the way we honour those that live and die in conflict is to act as active agents of peace and reconciliation. They know that to live ‘the good life’ they must live by these duties and obligations.

First Peoples House at the university held workshops on making beaded poppies to honour our aboriginal soldiers. My friend and fellow JD/JID student Colby made mine for me. This small act of affirming identity on behalf of my grandfather had a profound impact on me. It felt as important as wearing a medal of honour on my coat.

In keeping with badges and living aligned with Minobimaadiziwin, our boys are wearing a small patch of Moose Hide on their jackets. The Moose Hide Campaign is a movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who acknowledge and are committed to ending violence against women and children. Wearing the hide means you honour, respect, and protect women and children.

Practicing the principals of Minobimaadiziwin can be difficult. I failed one of my midterms. Yup, a big fat F. As I have mentioned, the Anishinaabe language has no letter F. Apparently I have found the only one.

There is a culture of non-competitiveness that our law school works towards advancing. But the fact is, law students are smart. Grades matter. I do not subscribe to either of the aforementioned traits. By making this “disclosure,” there is a part of me that is pretty sure I am now president of the Dummy Club. We are accepting new members! Come join us (by that I mean me)!

It’s difficult to feel centred and connected when right now I am so far outside of where the other students are academically. My ‘good life’ right now is filled with ramen noodles (yup, even if you’re old, if you’re a student you eat ramen noodles), children who are intent on besting their previous Christmas present of giving their Dad and me lice, and having the librarian actually tell me to go home (I’m actually pretty proud of that). But my spirit knows I’ve got to reach out and maintain my obligations that are born from connection. I don’t want to. But, it will feel cruddier not to. It’s the only way to find my way back to me.

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