Teachings by Rev. Karol Scotta 

“Each morning let us remember to greet our grandmothers and grandfathers whose spirits are in the many glorious things that surround us.” Rev. Karol Scotta

In honor of Father’s Day, Rev. Karol Scotta shares an excerpt from a talk she gave on the ancestral truths from her heritage as an Ojibway Woman of the Sault Ste. Marie’s band of Chippewa Indians, and how they align with Unity teachings. Rev. Karol is the Minister at Unity of the Westside in Culver City, California, and President of Options for Life, a day support service providing resources, independent living skills, and behavior intervention for people with intellectual/developmental challenges in the Los Angeles area. Rev. Karol serves on the Unity World Headquarters board of directors. She attended Unity Urban Ministerial School and was ordained by Unity Worldwide Ministries in 2022. She is a member of the UUMS Alumni Association. In this article, she discusses our commonality and shared values, as told through the Ojibwe traditions. Among the teachings are: Truth, Empathy, Humility, Respect, Love, Bravery/Courage, Honesty, and Wisdom.

Boozhoo…is an Ojibwe greeting that expresses our commonality and shared stories. HELLO _ Aniin!! Annin means I see your light. My name is Rev. Karol Ann Scotta and I am an Ojibway Woman. I am a proud member of my tribe, The Sault Ste. Marie band of Chippewa Indians. My grandfather and his relatives were ashamed to be Indian. Some were sent off to Indian Schools in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, over 200 miles away from their home and families. If you have never heard of the Indian schools you may want to look them up and educate yourself. Our government attempted to obliterate a culture that was here long before the patriots George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Racism against Indigenous people was rampant. We have been denied our traditions and our form of spirituality….Unfortunately, so-called Christians and religious groups played a vital part in the genocide we faced as a people. Well, we survived….perhaps even flourished…as our culture is making a comeback…

and I am honored to share these teachings with you today as we dive deeper into the seven grandfather teachings.

I love Unity as a form of spirituality because it teaches us to not follow some doctrine. We are not taught that those who are not like us are going to hell. We are not taught to twist scripture to shut out anyone. Unity teaching is very simple…it is to go find your truth and then live that truth of who you BE…who you are…in the world.

Do you remember your grandparents?? I do. Both the Italian side and the native side….vividly. Each morning let us remember to greet our grandmothers

and grandfathers whose spirits are in the many glorious things that surround us. Today, I am honored to share some of my ancestral truths which just so happen to align with Unity principles. 

The seven grandfathers came to the first elder in a dream. The First Elder gave us the gifts of knowledge that he received from the Seven Grandfathers when he was a little boy. In a dream, each of 7 grandfathers gave him a great gift.

I read a book this summer by James Vukelich titled The Seven Generations and the Seven Grandfather Teachings–a must-read, available on Amazon. For this talk, I will follow his order, since most of the deep dive into these teachings came from his book. The first grandfather gave the boy the teaching of DEBWEWIN (DEB WAY WIN) or Truth. The grandfather said “Be true in everything that you do. Be true to yourself and true to your people. Always speak the truth.” To take a deeper dive into this teaching we need to understand the breakdown of the Ojibway language. It is a verb-based language that creates, feels, and relates. Some studies suggest that as many as seven out of eight words in the language are verbs. The first part of the word “de” is to speak and “we” refers to the heart, which literally means “to speak from the heart.” When we talk about truth we mean eternal truth that has neither a beginning nor an ending; it has always been this way. The spiritual interpretation of this word could be “I cannot define the eternal.” If so, then words…the sound of our thoughts which have a beginning and an end, are the wrong tools to use to describe truth. Truth must be something that is experienced. 

In Ojibway culture, a young boy goes on a vision quest, a ceremony that is thousands of years old. One day he wakes up in his lodge to his father holding two birch bark dishes. In one dish is food–berries, venison, wild rice, and corn. The other dish contains charcoal. The boy is given a choice. If he wished to have a spiritual experience he had to choose it on his own. No one could force him to do it. No one can experience it for him. The child uses the charcoal to blacken his face and for the next four days and three nights, he goes without food or water. The charcoal on his face would signal to any villagers that he was to be left alone rather than offer him traditional Ojibwe hospitality–food, tea, or conversation. They would immediately understand by his appearance that he was seeking out a vision to guide his life. As the sun goes down, the boy gets cold, hungry, and lonely, and probably becomes concerned about what his parents could have been thinking by leaving him there. His next question might be where to get water, food, clothing, and shelter. By facing these questions, he learns an important lesson in real time. He ponders the thought that one without food, water, clothing, or shelter will die. 

The indigenous people helped the European traders, pilgrims, and explorers survive. As these early settlers traveled to the strange and harsh conditions in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, the natives gave them food, and shelter, and taught them to hunt, fish, and navigate the terrain. They shared their expertise with the very people who would take over and colonize their land. Why would the Ojibway help people who meant them harm? The reason is simple. It is embedded in indigenous spirituality to help those in need. Through this experience of hunger, thirst, cold, and isolation, the boy would learn empathy for the rest of his life which would enable him to say truthfully “If I can, I will help you alleviate those needs.”

The next grandfather offered DIBAADENDIZOWIN (DIB A DEN DIZ WHEN) or humility. This teaching would help the boy understand that he is equal to everyone else, no better, no less. Unity Minister and teacher, Ed Rabel taught us that uncritical, honest self-observation is the prelude to Christ consciousness. A deeper dive into this teaching comes when we understand the word as I think lowly of myself. The boy on this vision quest understands that food, water, clothing, medicine, and shelter come from “aki”–the earth. In English, I think lowly of myself sounds like a bad thing. “Chip Away” is the realization of one’s place in the world because our food, clothing, and shelter come from “a key” – the four-legged, the winged, the swimmers, and the plants that grow. A key offers medicine, which is the strength of the earth that heals us when we are sick, trees whose wood gives us fire, bark that provides lodging, and leaves that give us the oxygen we breathe. During this vision quest, the boy understands his relationship with the land and all of its inhabitants, and can now refer to all the animals, fish, birds, and plants as relatives which is not based on a genetic link or connection with his human family. Through relationship on the vision quest, the boy begins prayer with I am humble. I think lowly of myself. I do not exalt myself above my relatives. The very name for the Ojibwe people is “Anishinabe.” Anisha means for nothing, and “abey” means person. anisha Bay means the one who is nothing without their relatives or the one who is humble before the Creator.

The third grandfather offered the gift of MANAADJITOWAAWIN (MIN NAH DEN//DE MOW WHEN) or respect, so that the boy respects everyone, all human beings, and all things created. During this vision quest, he realizes that the deer, moose, elk, and caribou have to die for him to have leather, and the Beaver, Otter, and muskrat must be trapped for him to have fur. It is the care of these animals that keeps the child warm during the winter moons. When the boy realizes the fish in the nets give it sustenance and the plants it harvests are no longer able to grow, he develops respect for these relations and goes easy on them. There’s something to be said for Indigenous people. The moment we realize other beings give their lives so that we can survive we only take what we need for food, clothing, lodging, and medicine, and leave the rest behind. This is how we go easy on our relatives. The animals also go easy on us. They give us meat to eat, hide for clothing, and bones to make tools. In this reciprocal relationship, animals looked at the Ojibway and said if we don’t feed, clothe, and shelter our younger siblings they will certainly die. We’ll go easy on the human beings. From an Annisha Bay perspective, it is not the hunter who goes out and gets the animals, but the animals who step in front of the hunter’s gun or bow and arrow. It is the fish who swim into the net, and the fur-bearing mammal who walks into the trap that take care of us. They go easy on us. Another translation might be I acknowledge the sanctity of my relatives. This translation could be summed up as taking only what you need and leaving the rest behind for your relatives. This reminded me of Unity’s second principle of seeing God in everyone and everything. To have effective and powerful relationships, there must be mutual respect.

Another grandfather gave a gift of ZAAGIDWIN (SA GAY DIWIN) which is Love, so that the boy would love his brother and sister and share with them. At the end of the day, we might ask ourselves who in my life feeds me, clothes me, gives me medicine when I’m ill, provides a place for me to live, and looks after me in this way? The answer might be our parents, family, or friends. Why? Because of love. If the very word for truth translates to I cannot define the eternal, this is also the case for our sacred law of love. It’s a gateway. The word doesn’t define love. It is about how something eternally moves within us. It is something impermanent. The language does not attempt to define love. However, here are some examples of it. “Zag” is to emerge or to rise for who does the sunshine. An example of unconditional love is “gizzy manadu”: the sun illuminates everything and shines for everyone. In the ojibway language, there is not just one way to say love. One must have compassion to love unconditionally. To bless someone may be one of the most important concepts in ojibwe spirituality and perhaps one of the most important words in the language is “ZHA WENIM.” We love when we harmonize and we attract others, in Unity. 

The fourth grandfather gave the child the gift of AKKODEWIN (AWK WO DAY WHEN) or bravery. This is the courage to do things even in the most difficult times. It reminds me of Unity’s 3 rd principle and how we co-create our lives with God, Universal Spirit, Gizhe Manidoo to the Ojibway.

The fifth grandfather gave the boy GWEKOWAADIZIWIN (WICK WA DIS WHEN) which is honesty. The elder wanted the boy to have this so he would be honest in every action and provide good feelings in his heart. I find this peace within when I follow Unity’s 4th Principle of going within to pray and meditate. I am honest with myself and God/Source in prayer and meditation. This honesty grows and is expressed from the inside, shifting and molding me, and shining outwardly into the world.

The sixth grandfather gave the boy the gift of NIBWAAKAAWIN (NA BUKE A WIN) which is wisdom and the boy learned to use that wisdom for his people.

Wisdom is one of Unity’s 12 powers. It is our ability to discern and apply what we learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *