Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wampum Belt Journey

I have been very interested in wampum lately and have several papers that I want to share with you.  Since I have not been writing too much lately, I thought I would give myself an easier one, "Our Blood is Sweet: the Wampum Belt Journey",  an interview with Joe Jacobs of the Mohawk Nation, Kahnawake Territory Quebec.

Elder Jacobs had a dream that he should try to help indigenous peoples with diabetes.  From his ancestors he drew the idea of using a wampum belt to share this message, as these belts were traditionally used as record keepers and he thought that a wampum belt would be a good way to send a message about this disease.  Part of the message was also through his walking the belt through different communities to demonstrate the need for a more active lifestyle.

He walked the belt between communities and was accompanied by people he met along the way.  The belt was never transported by vehicle.  Communities kept the belt as long as they needed to as a focus for diabetes discussions and learning in the community.  The belt is passed on when another community is ready to receive it and the associate responsibilities.

In the interview he shares some stories about the people he meets along the way and how the wampum belt started conversations and inspired people he met, including some who added things to the belt.  He says that he hopes this effort has brought people into the circle of indigenous care and brings remembrance to those who have walked on due to diabetes.  While, for him it was also a reminder to return to our care of the seventh generations.

Having recently been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, this article spoke to me on a personal level.  It was also a great reminder that our contribution does not need to be big and complex to have an impact.  Elder Jacobs listened to his dream, made the belt and started walking.  Maybe we make things to difficult and complicated and maybe we just need to start walking towards whatever our gift is and put it out there.

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