National Brother and Sisters Day is celebrated every year on May 2nd to honor the bond between siblings and the importance of family. While the concept of siblings may be limited to those who share the same biological parents, our Indigenous communities view the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood in a much broader sense.
For our Indigenous people, the idea of family extends beyond blood relationships and includes the extended family concept. This means that people who are not necessarily related by blood can still be considered family based on their connection to the community and their spiritual bond. This explains why we have so many “Aunts and Uncles”!
In our Indigenous culture, we believe that all living things, including trees, rocks, water, air, and animals, are connected and related by the Creator. This interconnectedness means that we are all responsible for caring for and protecting each other, just as we would our biological siblings.
The extended family concept is often reflected in Indigenous languages, which often have different terms for different types of relationships. For example, in the Algonquin language, there are specific terms for different kinds of siblings, including older brother, younger brother, older sister, and younger sister. This reflects the importance of these relationships and each sibling's unique role within the family and the community.
The bond between siblings in Indigenous communities is often strengthened through ceremony and tradition. In our Indigenous communities, there is a ceremony where two people who are not related by blood become siblings by exchanging gifts and especially sharing food.
In our Indigenous culture, it is common to refer to elders and respected community members as aunt, uncle, or cousin, even if they are not blood-related. This practice reflects the importance of extended family and community in Indigenous cultures. It serves as a way of showing respect, oneness, and endearment towards those who have earned our admiration and trust.
The practice of calling elders aunt or uncle is often seen as a sign of respect and honor. It is a way of acknowledging the wisdom and experience that comes with age and recognizing elders' vital role in our communities. Using these familial terms to address elders, we express our gratitude and appreciation for their guidance, support, and leadership.
In addition to showing respect, using these familial terms is also a way of fostering a sense of oneness and community. By referring to someone as an aunt, uncle, or cousin, we acknowledge the interconnectedness between all members of our community. We reinforce the idea that we are all related and are responsible for caring for and supporting each other, just as we would our biological family members.
In my published book, "The Creator's Great Soup," there is a wonderful example of Indigenous storytelling that emphasizes the importance of our interconnectedness and our responsibility to care for each other and the world around us.
The book tells the story of how the Creator made a great soup with all the different ingredients of the world, including people, animals, trees, and rocks. The ingredients were all mixed together, creating a delicious and nourishing soup that sustained life on Earth. But the Creator warned that if any ingredient were ever taken out of the soup, the balance of the world would be upset.
This story highlights the importance of our interconnectedness and the fact that we are all related to each other and the world around us. It emphasizes the idea that every person, animal, tree, and rock is essential to the balance of the world and that we must all work together to care for each other and the earth.
"The Creator's Great Soup" is a powerful reminder of our responsibilities as stewards of the earth and the importance of treating each other with respect, kindness, and compassion. It is a beautiful example of Indigenous storytelling and a valuable resource for teaching young people about the importance of our relationships with each other and the natural world.
It is an honor to share this important work with the world and to use storytelling to remind us of our responsibilities to each other and the earth. Here is the book: https://amzn.to/3ANmj3Q
Finally, using Brother and Sister terms expresses endearment towards those who are important to us. By calling someone brother, sister, aunt, or uncle, we express our affection and love for them, even if we are not blood-related. This helps to create a sense of warmth and closeness in our communities, which is essential for building strong and resilient relationships.
As we celebrate National Brother and Sisters Day, let us remember the importance of family and how Indigenous communities have expanded the concept of family to include all living things. Let us also recognize the spiritual bond that we share with each other and the responsibility that we must care for and protect our siblings, both biological and non-biological.