The Vision Quest
How can we bring meaningful change to the world? Go to the land, writes Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man) – Dave Courchene, of the Anishinabe Nation, in this story of the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
Dave Courchene – Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man) was a highly respected Anishinaabe Elder and Knowledge Keeper who passed away on December 8, 2021, at his home on the Sagkeeng First Nation. In the course of his passionate lifelong work to create a healthy environment for current and future generations, Courchene founded the Turtle Lodge Central House of Knowledge, a sacred lodge for ceremonies, international conferences, language revitalization classes, youth guardianship training, and more.
In 2018, BESIDE had the honour of publishing a story by Courchene about the Vision Quest rite of passage and the Seven Grandfather Teachings, which we are republishing today. We celebrate his life and mourn his passing.
A young boy was troubled by what he was seeing in the world – climate change, continued wars, violence and hatred. He decided to ask Grandfather what he could do to help make a change. Grandfather replied, “The question you are asking can only be answered by going on a Vision Quest. It’s a rite of passage to help you become a man,” answered Grandfather.
“It’s time now for you to go to the land. It will teach you how to survive by showing you the order and laws of Creation. To understand who you are, you must ask your ancestors your question, and call on the Earth and nature to teach you.”
“We have a special place called Manitou Api, meaning: ‘the place where the Great Spirit sat’. You will be alone for four days and four nights, fasting with no water and no food. This will clear your mind and cleanse your body so it can be ready to receive and live your vision.”
The young boy left and arrived at Manitou Api. He chose a place close to the pine trees. Placing his offering of tobacco in a circle, he seated himself at the centre. Night came quickly. He gazed at the bright sky full of stars. Finally, he fell asleep.
He awoke to the sound of a long howl—a wolf in the distance. He was a bit afraid, but he felt more at ease as the sun rose and warmed him up. The birds seemed to sing in joy, seeing the sun rise again.
There was no vision that night, but the boy could now see more of nature than he’d ever noticed before. A deer walked by gracefully, not taking notice of him. He saw little creatures on the land, birds flying by, a butterfly landing on his hand before fluttering away.
Throughout the daytime, the boy witnessed and felt so much. His emotions ran in many different directions, and his mind questioned why he was there. Somehow, the land kept him in the circle.
For three days and nights he felt himself going through a transformation, but yet… no vision. The fourth night came, and he asked Spirit for a vision. He drifted off to sleep. In a dream state, he suddenly found himself surrounded by seven animals, standing around his circle.
Amazing how real it all seemed!
As he sat in the centre of the circle, Buffalo stepped forward and spoke.
“I am the Buffalo. I bring you the Law of Respect. Respect all life on Mother Earth. Respect Elders and people of all races. The essence of respect is to give.”
The Buffalo said, “I come to let you know you must now serve your people. This is what respect is, to give yourself to the people using the laws we bring you.”
Then an Eagle that had landed from the sky made his way to the young boy. “I, the Eagle, bring you the Law of Love. Love the Great Spirit. Love the Earth. Love yourself, your family, and your fellow human beings. Every act of kindness and love will change the universe and change your world.
Next, the Bear stepped forward. “I, the Bear, bring you the Law of Courage. In life you will need the spirit of courage to overcome your fears, live your true spirit, and overcome the evil you will find in the world created by humans. To walk in courage is to do the right thing – to always take the high moral road.”
Then the Sabe stepped towards the young boy and said, “I am Sabe. Some call me Bigfoot or Sasquatch. I bring you the Law of Honesty. Never lie, gossip or judge, and be honest with yourself and others. Always speak kind words from your heart. Be true to your word.”
The Sabe touched the boy on his head with his furry hand before he returned to his spot.
The Beaver then stepped forward. He said, “I, the Beaver, bring you the Law of Wisdom. Everyone has a special gift. Show wisdom by using your gift to build a peaceful world. To know wisdom is to know yourself.
Then the Wolf stepped forward, bowing its head in humbleness, being in the presence of a human being. He said, “I, the Wolf, bring you the Law of Humility. Think of others before yourself. Humble yourself to the Great Spirit by showing gratitude for your blessings. I also bring other good teachings from your brothers and sisters that have arrived on your homeland.”
Finally, the Grandmother Turtle slowly made her way forward. “I bring you the Law of Truth. Truth is walking all the Sacred Laws brought to you by the Grandfather Animals that came before me. We are Spirit Grandfathers who sit at the Central Council Fire who oversee all of Creation and provide spiritual help. At times we’ll come to you in dreams or visions. Sometimes we’ll give you strong feelings, and put words in your mind to speak.”
“I, Turtle, represent Woman, the giver of life—your Mother Earth, and your own mother who gave you life. I bring you the ways of your ancestors, who walked with these Laws. There is so much suffering because the people have forgotten the Laws and are walking another path that has taken them into darkness. When the human beings walk with the Seven Sacred Laws, then there will be peace.”
“On my back are thirteen markings, representing the thirteen moons of the journey Mother Earth makes around Grandfather Sun, a symbol of the Great Spirit. Thirteen also represents the nine moons it takes to be created in the womb of your mother, plus the four seasons that you must follow; the four elements of life—Earth, Air, Water and Fire; the four elements of your human nature—Spirit, Emotions, Body, and Mind; and the four directions—North, South, East, and West, where the Grandfathers sit in the spirit world.”
The young boy suddenly awakened, knowing he had received his vision. He was excited to return to see Grandfather.
Grandfather said, “It is now your choice whether to answer the call of Spirit, my Grandson. You are free to make your choice. The Seven Sacred Laws can make you free. If you live in opposition to these Laws, you will be out of balance. Your troubles as man began when you lost touch with the Earth, the Original Mother to all life. Man became cold in the heart and allowed his gift of the mind to overwhelm the other gifts. The mind lacked the spiritual foundation to guide its thoughts and actions. It was easy for the dark energies to seize control over the minds of men to destroy life by destroying the Earth. Man has yet to awaken from this nightmare he is in.”
Grandfather looked closely at the boy. Man must begin by going back to the land, your mother, who will help awaken anyone who searches for the light, for the truth. You have been given your vision, Grandson. What will be your choice?”