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Lewis Cardinal Addresses the Global Ethic Assembly

Lewis Cardinal addresses the Global Ethic in Action Assembly at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Well, I want to thank my esteemed colleagues and panel members to share space with me and to share their thoughts with me. I also want to do this while we’re celebrating 130 years here at this Parliament since its inception, 30 years since the modern Parliaments. I’m also celebrating 50 years since this jacket was made for my father by my grandmother and so it’s very very dear to me and I’ve asked her to be with me today so I wore this jacket to commemorate her as well.

You know within Indigenous traditions the way that we see the world is about how we connect to each other, how we connect to the great mystery of life, how we connect to ourselves individually as human beings. The first directive that I’ve been asked to speak to is commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life. All the great religions say, amongst other things, “Thou shalt not kill, have respect for life, do unto others,” as you would have done to yourself. 

Within our worldviews, Indigenous people have always seen and recognized and have learned from the close relationship we have with Mother Nature and the close relationship that we have with the great cosmos through our ceremonies, that all life is sacred, everything that surrounds us, everything in this building, everything in this space has sacredness to it because it comes from Mother Earth. And that because of that relationship, we are all related to each other. We are family. 

Our great traditions teach us that the only thing that separates us from the rest of nature is our shadow, as the great black elk had once said. But what separates us as human beings is what we create between each other. Our brains are hardwired the same way. Our bodies are created the same way. We are relatives and we have to remember that. That, when we practice violence amongst each other, we practice violence on ourselves. We shake that great web of life by practicing that violence. But we must return back to that simple knowledge of knowing that all life is sacred, that we are all sacred beings. 

Each voice, your voice, has sacredness to it. Each person is sacred. Each of you are an answer to a prayer that was made by somebody in your family, your community, or your nation many years before you were born. Someone there was asking, “We need help. We need something to help us move forward and as believed that each of you were sent.” And like those little children that are born, their fists are closed like tight little balls like this. But as they get older and as we nurture them, those hands start to open. And if we do our jobs right as relatives, as community members, then we will help open that hand to reveal those gifts that we have. And no two of us are the same. For all of us carry uniqueness and carry that sacredness within us. So we have to learn how to listen, because each voice carries with it a potential solution. And if the only the noisy ones are the ones who are listened to, then we are missing a lot that needs to be offered, and a lot of potential as to where we can be. 

Human beings are great destroyers, but we’re also great builders. We can take away, but we can bring back. So we need to find that tradition of peace, friendship, and respect that is woven throughout our nations, and to come together in nonviolence, and to practice peace and not war. Change is the constant in nature.

Therefore, we can make change. Thank you.

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