Grandfather Teachings

Native Grandfather Teachings educate about communication and relationship skills.

Children and adults need guidelines, boundaries and or rules to live by. There is a wide assortment of examples of this throughout life. Every household has morals, or rules that they believe and strive to abide by. Some are religious or spiritual in nature, and some are originated from previous generations. The Native American culture has many teachings that are spiritual based. One popular teaching is called the “Seven Grandfather Teachings.”

Native Americans have a deep connection with nature and many believe that their departed “spirits” are ever present in the glorious nature that surrounds us. This story of the Seven Grandfathers represents this belief. The story expresses the need to know teachings of our grandparents in order for us to get direction and balance. It expresses the need to listen and learn from our past generations.

The story starts out expressing the need to care for “Mother Earth” (Aki) and the community of life. This first elder gave the gift of knowledge that he received from the Seven Grandfathers when he was a little boy. Each grandfather gave him a great gift:

  • Nibwaakaawin (wisdom)
  • Zaagidwin (love)
  • Manaadijitowaawin (respect)
  • Aakodewin (bravery)
  • Gwekowaadiziwin (honesty)
  • Dibaadendizowin (humility)
  • Debwewin (truth)

The grandfathers told the boy that each of these teachings must be used with the rest. You can’t have wisdom without love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth. In summary, all these characteristics are connected and to obtain and maintain balance and direction in our lives, they must be used together.

These teachings are present today to also remind us to share these teachings with the next generation. These teachings will remind us how to treat one another and our children. The best teachings are through example and repetition. Storytelling is an art-form that Native’s continue to honor, embrace and nurture.

Michigan State University Extension collaborates with many federally recognized Tribes throughout Michigan to provide social-emotional programming that helps individuals and families to maintain health and wellbeing. Peruse through the MSU Extension website to learn more about nutrition, health and wellbeing programming. Through MSU Extension healthy relationships you can research Native or other ethnic customs. It is remarkable how similar the teachings are on the topic of civility.