What is your purpose in life? This is one of the questions Blair Stonechild explores in The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality.
In researching this book, Stonechild, a member of the Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation in Saskatchewan, interviewed numerous Aboriginal Elders. Among them is his mentor, Danny Musqua, who achieved the title of Knowledge Keeper, earning the right to pass sacred stories on to the next generation.
Stonechild’s exploration of Aboriginal spirituality is both philosophical and practical. According to him, Indigenous spirituality has a place far beyond the classroom, and the importance of this book is self-evident: “Indigenous spirituality holds the key for transforming our future.”
He explores the belief that when we die, we actually go home to the spirit world from which we came and reunite with the Creator. He also makes a strong case for reincarnation, citing several examples of children who spoke convincingly of having lived previous lives.
In looking at the larger picture of life, Stonechild views all people as one. “Humans are like leaves on a tree,” he says, “all thinking they are separate, but in reality connected together.” According to Aboriginal spirituality, the Creator is present in all things. All entities, including inanimate ones, are spirits and thus alive.
This 244-page book contains an index, bibliography, endnotes, glossary to translate words and phrases from Cree to English, and two black and white photos of Stonechild. One shows him in 1963 as a youth at the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret in southern Saskatchewan.
One feature of this book is Stonechild’s early educational experience – he survived the horror and trauma of the residential school system. “Despite the strict regime, I was reasonably content in residential school,” he says, fearing schoolyard bullies more than the authorities.
As a youngster, Stonechild had a mischievous streak. He and a friend once smoothed down their hair with butter so they could have a cool “duck tail” hairstyle like the bigger boys. On another occasion, they were caught red-handed raiding the food pantry. This cookie-stealing episode earned him the strap.
Stonechild earned a B.A. at McGill and an M.A. and PhD at the University of Regina. He was the first instructor hired at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, which later became the First Nations University of Canada. Along the way, he developed a keen interest in Aboriginal spirituality.
Stonechild’s purpose in life is to be a professor at the First Nations University of Canada. As a Knowledge Keeper himself, his ultimate purpose, as he so ably demonstrates in The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality, is to explore and share his wisdom with the Knowledge Seekers.
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