The Seven Grandfathers

The Anishnabe have a story that teaches character. It is called The Seven Grandfathers and it promotes very similar values to those we hold dear in this modern Western society. The story (of course) is a hero’s journey. The story below is a verbal translation from Don Abel in Ontario.


Long ago, when Nishnaabeg first came, they had a hard time. There was all kinds of sicknesses and bad things around. The Messenger was told, “Go down there, look around and find out what is happening. Bring back someone who we can tell about what life should be, with the Nishnaabeg.”

He left immediately and went to all places in the North, South, West and East. He could not find anyone. On his seventh try, while he was looking, he saw a baby. The baby’s parents were out working. So he picked up the baby. Before taking the baby, he offered tobacco, he also, left a little bit of cloth, so that the Nishnaabeg would not think that the baby was taken for a bad reason.

He took the baby back to where the Grandfathers were sitting in a circle. He was still very small and still wrapped inside the cradleboard.

One of the grandfathers looked at the baby very carefully. “This is the one. Messenger, pick up the baby. Take him all over, teach him carefully the way Nishnaabeg should lead their lives.” The Messenger took him; they went around the earth.

When they came back seven years later, the little boy again saw his Grandfathers. He was already a young man. The Grandfathers noticed that this boy was very honest. He understood everything that was taught. One of the grandfathers took a drum and started singing. He took a piece of cloth of every color which represented all the teachings. Each direction had a color of its own. “I’m not finished yet,” said the Messenger as they left.

When they came back, each of the grandfathers gave the little boy a teaching. “These are the ones you take with you,” he was told.

He was given Wisdom in order to better his life through knowledge of life. Next, was Love, so that he may take it to his Nishnaabeg; to be able to teach them to speak well of each other.

They started to talk about Respect. “Show Respect for all things here on earth, all people, regardless of race or language. And then, this is Bravery. There will be a time when you have problems. So never let go what has been given to you. Then one grandfather picked up Honesty. To live the right, honest way, to speak well of your fellow man, to know think through whatever life brings. Humility that man, tries to live in harmony and balance on earth. One should not think himself above others, while walking here on earth.

The last grandfather took Truth. This was given to Nishnaabeg when all of these teachings are understood. Then the Messenger and his student got up. Already the boy became a man as he left.

When he came back to us, he brought these teachings, before we enter the Sweat Lodge. So, that Nishnaabeg would remember and not lose them. Every place we go and see life, we should be able to pass on these teachings to our Nishnaabeg.

It was good; we as Nishnaabeg were given the pipe so that the Creator can help. We have to speak of these carefully as we walk this road. Every Nishnaabe speaks of these teachings differently. Every time we hear them, we should be able to take the knowledge given, as we understand and take them with us. Sometimes, it is not time to teach you, to talk of these speakers, that take these into their hearts, as they speak of them.

This is how little I know, of these that were given to this little boy the Seven Teachings.

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