“Four Directions Youth Project”
A Dominion Project
In 2009, the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada launched a fundraising effort in support of the Four Directions Youth Project, a curriculum-based educational experience developed by UELAC Honourary Vice President Zig Misiak.
The project is being undertaken in collaboration with a number of schools, groups, and First Nations, including the Chiefswood National Historic Site, which is of primary cultural and heritage importance to the Six Nations of the Grand River community. Others including re-enactor groups involved with the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 will be contributing their expertise to assist with this initiative.
The Four Directions Youth Project is based on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address, a very special and respectful greeting to the natural world, which is recited at most social and spiritual gatherings. Its message transcends ethnic and cultural lines with lessons instilling gratitude and self-respect, as well as respect for others and Mother Earth, whose children we all are, regardless of race, creed, color, or sex.
The project carries a message of peace, pride, and co-existence. Coupled with hands-on activities aimed at youth following each weekly gathering, the Four Directions Youth Project promises to be a learning experience that will foster self-esteem along with an interest in Canadian history and heritage.
The Four Directions Youth Project seeks to revive interest in a key historical period relevant to all people during the formation of Canada after the Revolutionary War. This project is inclusive to all people, nations, religions, etc., that focuses on bridging the gap through cultural awareness, interaction and understanding. Utilizing a key event, i.e., the War of 1812, the Four Directions will build capacity while learning about each other through engaging and interactive (hands-on) actitivities in a peaceful and non-threatening evironment conducive to learning. This project will strengthen partnerships, and build upon commonalities that we as a people (from the four directions of the globe) in the Grand River share. This project will also build capacity through linkages to the Ontario Curriculum in the area of History, Geography, Environmental and Indigenous Studies. We will also engage in strengthening our partnership base with the United Empire Loyalists, and the Black Community, as well as engage the Immigration Office in Brantford.
Not only will the students finish this program by learning more history and skills but our hope is that they will participate as re-enactors in our communities and support events leading up to and including the War of 1812- 200th. We also feel that the “graduating” youth will become ambassadors within their communities having gained self confidence, higher esteem and a willingness to reach out to others sharing their knowledge.
The Four Directions Youth Project is in itself historical with the United Empire Loyalists of Canada and the First Nations, specifically Haudenosaunee at this time, coming full cycle in support of one another. The “national” and “inter national” impact of this unification is yet to unfold.
The Thanksgiving Address is of great importance to the Haudenosaunee. The Ohenton Kariwatek:wen, which actually means “the words before all else”, is said by the Haudenosaunee to open and close civil and religious meeting. The Address is also said as a daily sunrise greeting, and it contains the teachings of how one is to conduct one’s self in harmony with the natural world.
The Thanksgiving Address, the Gawyehnehshehgowa (The Great Law of Peace) and the Creation Story are intricately interwoven, and contain the foundational principles of the Haudenosaunee worldview. When the Great Law of Peace was established, the Haudenosaunee were reminded by the Peacemaker to give thanks to the Natural World; thus, the Thanksgiving Address was re-established.
When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World.
It is very hard to put this unique relationship and awareness into words, other then to say that the Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.
The Great Law of Peace and the Thanksgiving Address are based on natural law, and they are the backbone of the Haudenosaunee traditional law and ecological knowledge.
The Great Law of Peace and the Thanksgiving Address are composed of policies, principles, moral duties, laws, ceremonies, and other religious and political aspects that the Haudenosaunee were given on how to live in harmony with each other and with the Natural World.