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Positive Childhood Experiences in Ojibwe Culture []


By Zhawin Gonzalez (compiled by Chloe Yang), 9/30/20,

HOPE knows that all families, communities, and cultures have inherent strengths. In recent webinars with The Montana Institute, we’ve learned real world examples of this from co-presenters at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC). Zhawin Gonzalez, or Wasegabo, is the MIWRC Education and Resource Coordinator. In this blog post, Zhawin shares his insight on the long tradition of positive childhood experiences in Ojibwe culture.

Please introduce yourself and your work for our blog readers.

Hello/Bozhoo, my name is Zhawin Gonzalez or Wasegabo (Wa-se-ga-bo), which is my spirit name in Ojibwe. I am enrolled in the White Earth Nation. I’m a parent of three beautiful children and have earned the Father of the Year award for my exemplified passion, stamina and consistency in serving parents in my community throughout the state of Minnesota. I currently work as an Education and Resource Coordinator at Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, empowering Indigenous families. Additionally, throughout the state of Minnesota, I teach others how to heal as a part-time Motivational Consultant at Motivational Consulting, Inc.

Can you tell us about the long tradition of positive childhood experiences in Ojibwe culture?

One long tradition of positive experiences in Ojibwe culture is based in our teachings on gauging one’s success. Unlike our counterpart of Western ideology, measuring success by how much money one makes or how good one is at math, reading, or writing, Ojibwe teachings pass down the tradition of determining how successful one is by how well they treat other people, places, and things. Tell me, what good is it to have all that money, or be the best at numbers or letters, if you are just going to harm other people, places, or things around you?

Ojibwe people interact with their surroundings as if they were one with the universe. When someone in the community benefits, then the entire community benefits, and vice versa. If someone is sick, then we all are in some way, or we are now more vulnerable to becoming sick. That sickness can come as a virus in the body or malady of the spirit. We look at life as if we were gifted with a spiritual bank account (one’s life), and if we keep being overly selfish by taking from life (the universe) too much—by withdrawing, so to speak, from this bank account—we become spiritually bankrupt, creating malady. To alleviate the issue or become spiritually fit, one needs to deposit into our spiritual bank account by giving back to the universe. This can come in many forms, through work which gives back to the community, spiritual activities, helping others without expecting anything in return, etc.

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