An elder from the community engaged in conversation with a group of children

Seven Grandfather Teachings

The Seven Grandfather teachings are a set of Anishinaabe guiding principles passed down from generation to generation to guide the Anishinaabe in living a good life in peace and without conflict. 

Guiding principles

Many Indigenous organizations and communities have adopted the Seven Grandfather Teachings as a moral stepping stone and cultural foundation. Communities have adapted the teachings to suit their community values. Despite where the teachings originated, they share the same concepts of abiding by moral respect for all living things.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are among the most widely shared Anishinaabe principles because they are relatable and encompass the kind of morals that humanity can aspire to live by. They offer ways to enrich one’s life while existing in peace and harmony with all of creation.

The story

The Creator gave spirits known as the Seven Grandfathers the responsibility to watch over the Anishinaabe people. The Grandfathers sent a Messenger down to earth to find someone to communicate Anishinaabe values. After searching in all directions, the Messenger found a baby. The Seven Grandfathers instructed the Messenger to take the baby around the Earth for seven years to learn the Anishinaabe way of life. After their return, the Grandfathers gave the baby, now a young boy, seven teachings to share with the Anishinaabe people; love, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, humility, and wisdom. Below lists each teaching in Anishinaabemowin and the linguistic breakdown of each word.

To speak only to the extent, we have lived or experienced. Commonly referred to as Truth. 

  • Deb = to a certain extent 
  • We = sound through speech 
  • Win = a way it is done 

Truth is represented by the turtle as the turtle was here during the creation of Earth and carries the teachings of life on his back. 

To think lower of oneself in relation to all that sustains us. Commonly referred to as Humility. 

  • Dabas = low or lower 
  • End = pertaining to thought 
  • Izi = state or condition 
  • Win = a way it is done 

Humility is represented by the wolf. The wolf lives for his pack and the ultimate shame is to be an outcast.  

To go easy on one another and all of Creation. Commonly referred to as Respect. 

  • Manaaji = to go easy on someone 
  • Idi = in a reciprocal way 
  • Win = a way it is done 

Respect is represented by the buffalo.  The buffalo gives every part of his being to sustain the human way of living. The buffalo respects the balance and needs of others. 

Unconditional love between one another including all of Creation, humans and non-humans. Commonly referred to as Love. 

  • Zaag = to emerge, come out or flow out 
  • Idi = in a reciprocal way 
  • Win = a way it is done 

The eagle represents love because he has the strength to carry all of the teachings.  

To live correctly and with virtue. Commonly referred to as Honesty. 

  • Gwayak = correctly, straightly, and rightly 
  • Aadizi = he/she lives 
  • Win = a way it is done 

Honesty is represented by either the raven or the sabe.  They both understand who they are and how to walk in their life. 

To live with a solid, strong heart. Commonly referred to as Bravery or Courage. 

  • Zoongi = solid, strong 
  • De’e = a form of heart 
  • Win = a way it is done 

Bravery is represented by the bear.  The mother bear has the courage and strength to face her fears and challenges while protecting her young. To face life with courage is bravery. 

To live with vision. Commonly referred to as Wisdom. 

  • Ni = the soul within 
  • Waa = pertaining to sight 
  • Kaa = an abundance 
  • Win = a way it is done 

The beaver represents wisdom because he uses his natural gift by altering the environment for his family’s survival.   

Learn more of our teachings and principles  

The Seven Grandfather teachings are some of the most commonly shared teachings among the Anishinaabe people. The Seven Grandfather Teachings are for anyone to honor and live by. Are you interested in learning more about Indigenous culture, teachings, and practices? Any student enrolled in SGEI programming can contact our Cultural Lead for one-on-one cultural mentorship.