7 grandfather teachings opens dialogue on First Nations’ spirituality

Bob Crawford shares universal wisdom and explains First Nations spiritualism

Living a good and full life is a difficult and lifelong endeavour, but the wisdom and guidance of others can help, as Robert “Bob” Crawford, aboriginal services counsellor at George Brown, knows well.

On Nov. 27, the Peerconnect centre at Casa Loma campus hosted a talk about First Nations’ spirituality and beliefs lead by Crawford, who is from the Algonquin Nation and is Turtle Clan.

“I’m here to talk about how our people live good and healthy lives,” said Crawford, purifying smoke curling up from a braid of smouldering sweetgrass on the table behind him.

The talk was focused on the seven grandfather teachings, the Anishinaabe version of traditional teachings that help people live well and with regard for others and for the world. The seven teachings—courage, honesty, humility, truth, respect, wisdom and love—were taught using the story of a man walking on a journey through life, encountering animals that embody the lessons and virtues being taught.

For Crawford, though, the seven teachings are only half of the talk’s significance. Dispelling misconceptions about First Nations’ spirituality and creating a dialogue is just as important.

“Sometimes in today’s societies we’ve (all) forgotten about our own teachings,” Crawford said. He hopes that people who are not Indigenous Peoples will use sessions like his to reflect on their own cultures. He added that sessions like these are also about clearing up big misunderstandings around First Nations’ spirituality.

To that end, the question period and discussions that the event featured helped participants clear up their own misconceptions. As well, the observation of and participation in simple rituals, such as prayers or the sweetgrass purification clarified some elements of First Nations’ beliefs that students may not have been familiar with.

Crawford emphasized that the lessons of the seven grandfathers are truly universal, and more applicable than ever.

“We have a great responsibility as human beings, as caretakers for the earth, and we’re in some really interesting times right now in regards to that.”


7 grandfather teachings opens dialogue on First Nations’ spirituality