In the beginning of time, the Creator placed many First Nations
all over this earth, our Mother Earth...

Noel Starblanket's Keynote Speech for ADEC - Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2001

In the beginning of time, there was nothing but Spirit
Great Limitless Spirit
It was the Great Spirit who manifested itself into material

No matter what it was that was created,
the Spirit was always within.
The Great Spirit became Creator.

Material was created
water, rock, air, fire, always with the Spirit within.

Life was created
birds, bugs, animals, plants, trees
always with the Spirit within

Human beings were created by the Creator.
Within us, within all things, the Creator placed Spirit.

Before we were born, we were Spirit.
Western scientists tell us that we are born of the union of male and female,
but we know that only relates to our material selves.

I, we are not material.
We are spirit beings before we take on flesh, before we "materialize".
When we come into this world, we are given body. With our bodies, we are able to make our spirit stronger. than it was when we received the gift of life When our spirit returns to the spirit world, we can send it back stronger than when we received it We strengthen it through sacrifice with our sweat, with our pain. We strengthen it with our work

We strengthen it by placing our Spiritual selves
not our material selves
first in our lives.

Strangely, once our Spirit takes on a material body
so it can be strengthened,
we have to work the rest of our lives

so we become Spirit again.

There are those who fail,
those whose materialism binds them to the Earth. They literally sell their soul for material things

For those of us who remember when we were Spirits
Who remember that we are Spirits
We understand we are on this Spirit Journey
The circle of life which starts in the Spirit World
and which takes us back there.

We know of this cycle because we see it in all Creation.
We come from the Spirit World, and to it we return, having strengthened our Spirit for the next round.

In the beginning of time, the Creator placed many First Nations
all over this earth, our Mother Earth.

For each people, the Creator placed all things necessary to sustain their lives.

For each people, the Creator gave an original instruction,
about how they were to go about on this earth as Human Beings.

To the Oak tree, the Creator gave an instruction about how to be an oak, the shape of the leaves it was to make, how it was to reproduce acorns, how it was to bear its branches-everything the oak needed to be an oak.

And it was the same for all things of the Creation-each was given Original Instruction.

So it was with each Nation of human beings.
Each was given its instruction about how to be on this Earth.

Just as the oak tree never tries to convince the pine that it should change its ways so it is that Original People never tell each other what they should do and believe We welcome each other in our wonderful diversity, each following our special ways.

One of our universal understandings is that every part of the universe is half of a duality, that for each thing there is its opposite,
and that we cannot have one without the other. We cannot have day without night. We cannot have joy without sorrow. We cannot have life without death. We were instructed to understand the creation as being round, as a multidimensional circle full of many cycles.

There is the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the waters.

We see the cycle of the sun in his daily path, and we see our grandmother moon commanding the female life of the planet with her cycle.

We know our lives as Spirits-with- bodies begins with birth and passes through childhood.

Then we become able to give birth, to become parents.
Our cycle continues into maturity and then we become elders.
And then we face death, and the cycle continues.

In this way, we are encouraged to use each part of our cycle to prepare for the next part

We look forward to becoming older, and as we do so, we prepare ourselves to become an Elder.

As elders, we share our knowledge and wisdom's so the generations coming towards us can prosper,
so the children of our Nation will have good lives.

This is how we help the Creation keep the cycles moving....

We come to that door where we leave this life, and we are told that just as guests come to our house with a smile on their faces,
so we should step into the Spirit World with a smile, with a happy heart. Some of us have instructions to carry with us a special song to sing at this time to show our happiness.

We embrace death and we are comfortable with it.
At least until recently our deceased were laid out in our homes, in our living rooms. An entire community gathers together all night to spend the last hours with our relative who has gone ahead. Our children are there with us, and wrapped in the love of their families, they too become comfortable with death. These are times for tears and laughter, heartrending sobs and jokes.
If something within us blocks our grieving, our mourning, experienced elders who bring wails and overwhelming sorrow can bring down the barriers which hold back our tears.

It is natural that we grieve. We mourn. We weep. We tear our hearts out in agony.

This too is part of creation.

Grieving is part of our human experience. It is to be encouraged, not suppressed.

At this time of grief, somehow, naturally and automatically, our communities tend to divide into two groups. One group moves to prepare the meals and fix beds and make arrangements and dig the grave so that those who have grief can be free to do so. For us in this way, death is very real, very personal. We participate in it, one way or another.

It is not disguised with "slumber rooms" and cosmetics, nor encumbered with strangers brought in to take charge
of one of our most special events.

Instead our elders will tell us:

"Look at that person! One day it is I who will be there.
One day, you will be in that place."

In this way, as a community, we very personally celebrate a life which has been lived.

We don¹t know for sure what happens after this point-no matter how patiently we wait, so few people return to give us that information.

Sometimes we think we catch a glimpse of that place beyond
in our dreams or our visions but we are never quite sure.

Often however, in our minds eye, we think of death as being the beginning of another journey to some other place.

Our elders will tell us to let the deceased person move along on the Spirit Journey.

"Don't hold her back," they will caution. "Don't make her worry about who will care for her children ...Let her go on her journey. She has earned it!"

And so it is that we begin to let it be known that the intense grief we feel will not go on forever, that there will be a time when we must let our grief go and return to the land of the living.

Each of these details is part of the ancient wisdom which helps us deal with death as part of life.

One of the contradictions which we carry around with us without any discomfort or embarrassment is that while we talk about the Spirit Journey, we also tend to consider that the dead are always with us. The population of our communities at any given time is the sum of those who are living and those who have died. We live comfortably together.

Once each year, we have a special ceremony in honor of the dead.
Really, it is an all-night party.

It is most visible among the Original Peoples of Mexico, who gather in the cemeteries for the night of October 31, picnic feasts spread out on top of graves, guitars and songs and laughter filling the air.

A strange custom some might think, but then, no stranger then putting flowers on graves or wreathes on monuments.

We each have our own way of weaving death into our lives.

In our communities, peopled as they are with both the living and the dead, there have always been some special people who have been gifted with both masculine and feminine Spirits, people who embody that duality within themselves and use that power to understand matters of the Spirit.

We seemed to understand that their two spirit nature was part of a total package, not simply a matter of sexual identity.

They had special assignments and responsibilities, and were welcomed to contribute to the rich diversity which made our communities such humane places to live.

I thought it important that you know that, since today many two-spirit people have been brought by premature deaths to become involved in death education and issues related to palliative care-I hope you welcome them in your community as we traditionally have done in ours.

I thank the Old People for the wisdom I have passed on to you.

I thank you for listening to my words.

They are words which are not important for you to remember.

I hope however, that they stimulated thoughts and ideas in your own mind and feelings somewhere within, and that you will nourish your own ideas and feelings
so that they bring happiness and tranquility into your own life.

Copyright Noel Starblanket 2001