About Protocol: Wallace Awasis

Thanks to Wallace Awasis for this teaching on protocol that he shared on FaceBook a while ago.

ᑖᓂᓯ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑭᔭᐚᐤ ᐋᑕᐏᔭ ᐁᑿ ᒥᔪ ᑮᑭᓭᐹᔮᐤ ᓂᑑᑌᒥᑎᐠ!
tânisi kahkiyaw kiyawâw âtawiya êkwa miyo-kîkisêpâyâw nitôtêmitik!
How are you all doing and good morning my friends!

I was smudging and praying this morning and thinking about what I could share with all my friends today. And then “pakitinâsowin” came to mind.

  • ᐸᑭᑎᓈᓱᐏᐣ [pakitinâsowin]: protocol, offering
  • ᓃᑳᐣ ᐄᓰᐦᒋᑫᐏᐣ [nîkân îsîhcikêwin]: protocol, what you do before anything else
  • ᐅᐢᑇᑲᐣ [ospwâkan]: pipe
  • ᒪᑐᑎᓵᐣ [matotisân]: sweat lodge

ᑮᒁᐩ ᒫᑲ ᐆᒪ ᐸᑭᑎᓈᓱᐏᐣ? [kîkwây mâka ôma pakitinâsowin?]: So what is protocol?

pakitinâsowin is the act of making an offering in the form of tobacco, gifts, medicines, money, blankets etc. It is a sacrifice made in exchange for receiving something good such as prayers, guidance, blessing, ceremony and so on.

Protocol is a practice of reciprocity where gifts are offered when visiting an Elder

  • to make ceremonial request,
  • to ask a “tobacco question,”
  • in exchange for information or medicine from any other source,
  • or when asking for a ceremony to be done such as ospwâkan, or matotisân, etc.

Protocol is sometimes known as “nîkân îsîhcikêwin.” The first thing one does before asking for anything else is usually the offering of tobacco.

Tobacco and gifts are given to show respect, to acknowledge the value of what is being received in return, where that knowledge and help comes from, and how it came to be. It is about caring for sacred and ethical space and maintaining harmony with all our relations who provide for us including our spiritual brothers and sisters, plants and animals.

Protocol ensures that traditional Elders, lodge keepers and medicine people are taken care of in a good way. These people are looked after so that they don’t have to worry about basic needs such as shelter, gas, food or clothes, that could prevent them from playing their important traditional role in the family and community.
To a traditional Elder:

  • offerings of tobacco are spiritual,
  • gifts such as a blanket or money are physical,
  • prints and ribbons are emotional,
  • smudge and medicines are mental.

Elders honour the four bodies of their fellow Elder when requesting something, and so should you. For instance: when asking for or requesting a sweat lodge ceremony to be done for you, it is good practice to offer tobacco, prints, sweetgrass and a gift.

When picking medicines, it is also important to follow protocol, and to do so in a good way.

You do this with great respect and prayer to honour the spirit that resides within the plant. Remember you are not only cutting down the plant and releasing the spirit, but you are also destroying a whole economy. Bugs, microorganisms, worms, birds and other animals depend on that plant for a living and when you take the plant down for your own personal or ceremonial use, you are also taking away the livelihood of other species. It is no wonder that Elders cry during their prayers as they think of those in their prayers before taking any plant medicines. We should be as humble and as reverent.

Even during a traditional feast there is protocol and one must “feed the flame” by taking a small amount of traditional food to give to the fire for the ancestors. Should food fall on the ground, it is said that the ancestors are hungry, and that food should be given as an offering. There is always a natural balancing that occurs and protocol is a humble effort to look after the balance through our own actions.

ᐁᑯᓯ ᒫᑲ ᐱᑕᒫ ᓂᑑᑌᒥᑎᐠ ᒦᓇ ᒥᔪ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠ᙮
[êkosi mâka pitamâ nitôtêmitik mîna miyo-kîsikanisik.]
Enough for now my friends and you all have yourself a wonderful weekend. ay hay!

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