Seven Grandfather Teachings

Both the Anishinaabe people and those that believe in the Bible and other scriptures, teach that messengers from the Creator, are sent to teach those who are prepared to learn. In turn, those who are taught, likewise become a messenger, and are then directed to teach those who are not yet able themselves to be taught by messengers from heaven/the Creator.
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

Excerpt.  See embeded link for full video.

Someone recently brought this video to my attention, and I believe it is worth sharing here. It is one of many such videos on the cultural teachings of the Potawatomi that can be found here.

Watching the video will be helpful in understanding the familiar attributes I’m about to point out.

The Number 7

In both Christianity and at least a few American tribes, the number 7 is highly symbolic of sacred things.

For example, this description of the symbolic meaning of the number 7 concerning Christ can be found the Teaching and Commandments:

He bears seven wounds on His person: two in His wrists, two in His palms, two in His feet, and one in His side. Seven is the symbolic number of completion or perfection. Seven wounds reflect the completion of His sacrifice and of that sacrifice’s complete perfection.

If a similar symbolism can be understood in this Anishinaabe tradition, than the seven grandfathers would also represent completion and perfection. Likewise, the number of their teachings, also seven, would indicate the perfection of their teachings when they taught them. This would be consistent with the symbolic direction they were sitting in, within the lodge. They sat in the east, which as I discussed in my last post, is the direction associated with the “source of all knowledge,” or as this video calls it “the direction for wisdom.”

But, that’s only assuming the symbolism of seven is in any way cohesive between these two different traditions, which it very well may not be.

A testimony of Christ’s role and His perfection may very well be written in the stars in the form of the constellation Taurus (traditionally a white bull), and the Seven Sisters (or Pleiades) that sit on his back or shoulder, in a similar place where a yoke might sit on a beast of burden.

In the scriptures, a yoke is almost always used as a negative thing, a sign of bondage. I know of one particular place where it is positive:

Then Jesus spoke, saying, Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. And you shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt 6:8

If the white bull, or ox, or buffalo calf in the night sky is symbolic of Christ, it may very well be because of His role as He delivers it in this verse: a beast of burden who eases our burdens. Those seven stars near his shoulder could be bearing witness of the the seven levels of perfection He has achieved… or the seven virtues He has perfected… or the seven burdens that He has overcome… and/or the yoke that lightens burdens, rather than the ones that bring us into spiritual captivity. In whatever case, He leads by example, and the seven virtues He embodies are ones we should learn to embody as well.

There is another person in the scriptures, that the number seven is used to describe in having reached perfection as well:

And it came to pass afterward that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve who were ordained of him were with him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him with their substance. Luke 6, paragraph 1

Mary, out of whom when seven devils… This post will go over the seven “rascals” as well, and if you read this passage as Mary having overcome the seven opposites of the seven virtues, a further narrative of her reaching perfection parallel to Christ can be read into this passage. The Gospel of Mary talks of something to this effect as well.


Consistent Principles

These are the seven principles or teachings the grandfathers taught the boy:

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Bravery
  • Honesty (The native word “Gwayakwaadiziwin” is translated to mean: good character, honesty)
  • Humility
  • Wisdom
  • Truth

(I have seen some versions replace “truth” with “generosity.”)

These principles focus on positive qualities that allow an individual and a community to exist in peace if they are embraced. Likewise, during the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at Bountiful, Jesus taught principles that are positive things to become. When embraced, these also allow an individual and a community to exist in peace. In His sermons He claimed these qualities are those that are blessed:

  • Poor in spirit who come unto me (this could be understood as humility)
  • They that mourn
  • Meek (can be understood as having respect and being obedient to our Creator)
  • They that do hunger and thirst after righteousness (can be understood as seeking after the truth of what we were created to be, and having a desire to live by that truth)
  • Merciful (it requires generosity to forgive someone who has wronged us or someone we love)
  • Pure in heart (can be understood as the honest, or those with good character)
  • Peacemakers (This is something that requires wisdom)
  • They that are persecuted for my name’s sake, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake (it takes a great deal of bravery, to do what is right in the face of opposition)
  • He also taught the two greatest commandments are that we should love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. Secondly, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, and not just our neighbors, but we should love our enemies as well.
Other examples of the same principles taught in scripture can be found in these places:


The seven grandfather’s warn their pupil of seven opposites to their teachings: the seven rats or rascals.

There is a Native American teaching that everything has a twin: one good and one evil.

Seven angels fighting seven demons. Can be seen as a metaphor for the seven principles of the grandfathers and the seven rascals.

Likewise a scripture teaches this:

For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things.

…for there is a God and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth and all things that in them is, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his Eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition, even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life, the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself; wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

The whole chapter in 2 Nephi develops this idea in greater detail and is worth studying.


Become as a little child

I find a lot of significance in a child being the only one that the messenger could find for the grandfathers to teach. Christ taught that all of us must become as a child in order to able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

At the same time the disciples came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the middle of them, and said, Truly I say unto you, except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever shall receive one such little child in my name, receives me. But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone was hung about his neck and he was drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 9:10

It is even a central part of the Doctrine of Christ:

And again I say unto you, Ye must repent and become as a little child and be baptized in my name or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, Ye must repent and be baptized in my name and become as a little child or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. 3 Nephi 5:9

Some of the virtues of children that make them teachable by messengers from heaven are given in this verse:

And the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy, but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children and believe that salvation was and is and is to come in and through the atoning blood of Christ the Lord Omnipotent. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be for ever and ever — but if he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man, and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child: submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. Mosiah 1:16 (emphasis added by me)

In another demonstration of the same principle, after Jesus’ resurrection when He came to minister to the descendants of Lehi, He made this observation:

I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time, therefore go ye unto your homes and ponder upon the things which I have said and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand and prepare your minds for the morrow and I come unto you again. 3 Nephi 8:1

But observing their sorrow at His intention to leave, He heals their sick and brings their children forward to be taught what the adults were not prepared to receive.

And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bear record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again, and he spake unto the multitude and saith unto them, Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold, they cast their eyes towards Heaven and they saw the heavens open and they saw angels descending out of Heaven, as it were, in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about. And they were encircled about with fire and the angels did minister unto them. 3 Nephi 8:5
Further description can be found in this verse.

Messengers sent to teach the people

Similar to what I discussed in my last post that has already been linked in this article, both the Anishinaabe people and those that believe in the bible and other scriptures, teach that messengers from the Creator, are sent to teach those who are prepared to learn. In turn, those who are taught, likewise become a messenger, and are then directed to teach those who are not yet able themselves to be taught by messengers from heaven/the Creator.

There is a great degree of connection in these teachings (both Anishinaabe and Christian) that support each other, more connection than difference from what I can see.

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