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Kenneth Little Hawk Visits BCC, Urges Respect for Earth and One Another

May 10, 2013 by admin

By Joe Malanaphy 

     Kenneth Little Hawk, a Native American storyteller of Mi’kmaq and Mohawk descent, spoke at BCC on Tuesday, April 30 as part of Professor Jess Levine’s Native American Studies course. 

     Little Hawk, 77, has toured North America for over 20 years now, and is known as a keynote speaker, recording artist and actor. He even performed for the President at the White House back in 1998. 

     Little Hawk’s overall theme while speaking to the students was unity, oneness, and caring for one another. He also stressed the importance of taking care of and treating the environment and planet with respect.

     “I’ve learned so much from Little Hawk and Beverly (Little Hawk’s wife,) and I like to pass that knowledge on,” said Jess Levine, a history professor, as he introduced Little Hawk to the class.

     Little Hawk opened up by explaining to the class how he got his name. 

     “The short version is that my grandfather and grandmother gave me that name.”

     “My grandfather would call me the ‘little hawk that sits by,’ and my grandmother called me ‘sits by running water, running deep,’ so my full name was Little Hawk That Sits By Running Water Running Deep,” he said.

     Little Hawk shared many stories and lessons from his childhood that not only shaped the man he grew up to be, but gave insight to the overall thinking of his people and ancestors.

     “We’re taught as children to remember our ancestors at least once a day,” a lesson that Little Hawk’s grandmother impressed upon him as a young man.

     He questioned his grandmother’s reasoning behind this statement to which she responded “Because you’re not all that.”

     Little Hawk expressed that by saying this, his grandmother meant that we are what we are today because of our ancestors.

     “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here to make the world better,” Little Hawk said.

     Little Hawk’s wife, Beverly, accompanies him on his many endeavors and assists him throughout his lectures and performances.

     “My wife gives me the cues, she gives me the idiot cards,” he said jokingly as he looked to his wife for direction.

     “I’m Caucasian, but I fulfill the same rule an Indian woman would play,” Beverly said.

     Little Hawk spoke about the important role that women have played in his culture throughout history and the great respect that women have always been given from their male counterparts.

     “We’ve been doing this for thousands of years, respecting women,” said Little Hawk.

     The practice of storytelling has always been a way to convey Native American history throughout the generations, especially before written word. 

     “Storytelling to us is very valuable because we didn’t have a library,” he said.

     “What we had was old people. Some old people were 130-years-old, some 140.”

     Little Hawk explained how the average lifespan was much greater before they adopted the bad diets and eating habits brought here by the Europeans.

     “We’re only half as old as we originally were,” Little Hawk said.

     “We had a great respect for elders because we knew that they lived through things that we had no knowledge of,” he said.

     Touching on the topic of unity, and how to treat one another as human beings, Little Hawk said “The lessons that I learned, they became part and parcel to how we should behave toward each other. We’re not here to point fingers at others.”

     “Hate is taught,” and “change doesn’t start with a big group, it starts within yourself,” he stated.

     Taking issue with environmental mistreatment, Little Hawk started by saying “We’re taught as little children not to waste. Do you know that the U.S. is the most wasteful nation in the world?” 

     “Before you discard something, think it through for a while, because it has a second use,” he pleaded while holding up a conch shell, which he said served multiple purposes; doubling as a dish for eating and as a musical instrument.

     Little Hawk and his wife Beverly had a table set up, which had laid upon it flutes, other musical instruments, and objects that were used for multiple purposes that added real-life examples to his argument for recycling.

     “Today, they call it recycling, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years,” Little Hawk said.

     “We were the first with the shellphone,” he joked as he held the conch shell to his ear, drawing a big laugh from the class. 

     On a more serious note, Little Hawk continued to stress the importance of respecting the Earth in which we live.

     “To us the environment is something created for our benefit, and we destroy it to put a dollar in our pocket.”

     “How can you go to a field that yields strawberries and blueberries, or food for deer and other animals and bulldoze it, and make a parking lot and say this is ours?”

     “The environment, it’s a part of us. We are connected to it. We are part of the Earth, not a part from the Earth,” and “We take part in destroying the creator’s works.”

     Little Hawk concluded his lecture by playing a drum for the class, a practice that is meant to show great respect for those who took time and interest in listening to his words.

     “It’s a song to show the people at the gathering that you are showing a great deal of respect and honor.”

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