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COLUMN: Through grief, thanksgiving can restore hope

In mourning for children now uncovered, Jillian Morris comes back to the original instructions from Creator to carry Kan’nikonhrí:io – the Good Mind
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A tribute to victims of Canada's residential school system at the Mohawk Institute in Brantford. The Institute was formerly a residential school, which closed in 1970. It reverted to the Six Nations of the Grand River and has become a centre for the renaissance of First Nations Cultures.

Jillian Morris is Kanien’kehá:ka, turtle clan and band member of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory now living in Collingwood. She will be sharing stories and experience passed down through the oral traditions of Kanien’kehá:ka culture in her regular column, entitled Kan’nikonhrí:io, (The Good Mind) published on 


Shé:kon sewakwé:kon, hello everyone.  Nia:wen, thank you for joining me here today.

It was an honour to introduce myself on such a special day, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and summer solstice. A time for gratitude, for celebration, for ceremony, and for pride among my kin.

We have entered the season of growth. Seeds planted are nurtured. The pollinators have been doing their work. Life in abundance has sprung up all around.

Teachings of Mother Earth’s unconditional love are in full force. She provides despite our mistreatment. 

We are in a special time of thanksgiving.

I am still here.

This year so much is different. Indigenous people are in a state of collective grief. Reliving traumas en masse.

Thousands of young ones uncovered from unmarked graves. Thousands! Children callously discarded.

Regrettably, our communities were not surprised. The stories had been told. The stories were denied or assumed to be misrepresented. But we knew.

The irony of having been referred to as savages is flagrant.

My heart is heavy. The burden is great.

But I am still here.

I understand those young spirits had a profound purpose. Their silenced voices years and decades ago giving rise to ours today.  

I have been conditioned to fear my own voice. To fear what it invites. This has been a reminder that I still have one to use and I must.

These little ones did not get to choose their sacrifice. I have privilege and liberation they could only dream of. I cannot sit in the shame of squandering that.

I place the hurt, the anger, the sadness, the contempt, into the guiding nature of my teachings. The stories of Creator and my ancestors bring me back to responsibility, humility, and hope.

Because I am still here.

Kan’nikonhrí:io, The Good Mind has connection to our Creation Story, and the original instructions given to us by Creator. 

We are all interconnected and interdependent and have our place within the cycles of life. Intelligence was gifted to humanity and comes with duties to protect and even enhance life. 

We are meant to promote balance and harmony among the natural world.

The challenge to do this in modern society is undeniable. However the Haudenosaunee people were gifted the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, loosely translated to mean the Words Before all Else, sometimes referred to as the Thanksgiving Address.  

The address is presented at the beginning of any gathering.  Some are dedicated to speaking it each day. In turn, thanks is offered to all aspects of life, from the lands and waters to the fish, birds, and animals to the stars and the universe.

Each passage ends with the phrase, “Now our minds are one.”  Bringing our minds together. Aligning our hearts and spirits. Well-intentioned and with our responsibilities at the centre of our thoughts, discussions and considerations.

Our relationships to each other and all those we thank are respected. We acknowledge that no one life is inferior to another.  

We listen with care. We speak with care. We engage with care. 

It is how I am meant to behave each day. I am meant to carry Kan’nikonhrí:io, The Good Mind.

As long as I am still here.