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Indigenous Procession Welcomes the Opening Plenary

The Indigenous procession at the Opening Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA featured local drummers, singers, and leaders including a special land acknowledgment from Madalene Big Bear.

Welcome everyone here. This morning this is the beautiful thing. This morning I was asked to come here, this morning, on behalf of my family and my people. My people and my family are Indigenous to this land here, my grandfather signed the Treaty of Chicago in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition. His son, one of my grandfathers, was his first time here. At the same time as the World’s Parliament of Religions had started their inception, I’m honored to be here speaking. 

Debanawen means to love in my language. I want to send that word out into the space with us, e’tokmite’k means peace in my language. Those words came to me this morning and I’m about to speak to you in that language. and I know that a lot of us have a history of being prayed over in someone else’s language, I’m empathetic to that and if you just give me the moment to say these few things then I will tell you I will translate for you these things that I’ve said over here in this space for us.

(Traditional Prayer)

What I had just said was I just asked I I came to be here real recently because I asked if someone was here to ask these spirits that have been here before my people. These spirits that are indigenous to this place and have been here before me and will be here long after me, was there anyone here today to invite them. Our spirits love to fellowship. and so that’s what I asked I asked those spirits that were from every one of these directions but also this River, this water out here, where we know this Fort Dearborn history and we know so much of this queen of the West West City history uh that Chicago is.

I acknowledged this water that we’re on right now and I acknowledge those spirits of that big water and to my knowledge um speaking to them in my language, which my language is tied to our identity it’s tied to our spirituality it’s tied to our religion, if you can offer prayers of help for our people here in these spirits to be a able to be able to fellowship and come into these spaces and be with these spirits that you all bring with you here.

Before I go I need to acknowledge not just those spirits who were here before me, my ancestors who were here before me, but the Nations who were here before our Potawatomi nation. the Nations who were here with our Potawatomi nation, the Nations who were absorbed into other nations. and the Nations who may hopefully never be nameless in our history. Those nations are the Sauk, the Fox, the Winnebago, the Menominee, the Peoria, the Piankashaw, the Meskwaki. 

My people are still here where the stewards of this land will be the stewards of this land until the Creator tells us otherwise. Please acknowledge those people that came before us here in this space and traveled with these spirits that I asked to join you all this week, in all your good work. Love and peace.

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