Ginawaydaganuc: An Algonquin Worldview to Guide Us Through Troubled Times

Reader Contribution by Steven Mcfadden and Chiron Communications
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As yet another United Nations Code Red warning flashes around the world, I join with those who propose that ginawaydaganuc is an essential and realistic mind set, and who encourage general, wholehearted embrace of all that it denotes and connotes.

What in our vast, entangled cosmos is this thing called ginawaydaganuc? Suffice for the moment to say that it’s a word from one of the original languages of North America, Oma?miwinini?mowin (Algonquin). That languagehas been extant on North America for many thousands of yearsa vital vernacular.

This Algonquin word is easier to say than you might at first imagine. It’s pronounced with a soft ‘g’: gee-na-way-dag-a-nook. Try speaking the word aloud phonetically, and experience how the sound feels in your head, heart, and soul. Ginawaydaganuc denotes the fundamental reality that we are all related – with each other, with the natural world, with the cosmos.

There’s more to say. But before contemplating the ramifications of ginawaydaganuc, take a moment to breathe, and to absorb the full impact of one of the latest Code Red warnings. This one comes from the UN’s 2020 report, The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene.

Unprecedented Moment of Human History

“We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humankind and in the history of our planet,” the report says. Under relentless pressure from climate chaos, species loss, inequality, natural destruction, and COVID-19, our planetary and social warning lights are “flashing red.”

“We have taken the Earth for granted, destabilizing the very systems upon which we rely for survival…Now is the time to choose a safer, fairer path for human development.” The report urges governments, businesses, and citizens to pursue actively a new kind of progress that protects the environment.

In its conclusion, the UN report states that nothing short of “a great transformation–in how we live, work and cooperate–is needed to change the path we are on.” 

A Law of Nature

The knowings described by the Algonquin word ginawaydaganuc provide essential guidance for that “great transformation.” They can help to keep a great transformation moving forward in wisdom, beauty, efficacy.

Ginawaydaganuc – we are all connected – expresses a central part of the Algonquin world view. It denotes a law of nature, and it connotes an outline of our responsibilities to each other and to the earth.

I first heard the word spoken in the 1990s as a participant on a long walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a walk I describe in Odyssey of the 8th Fire. The walk was guided by a respected Algonquin Canadian elder named Ojigkwanong (Morning Star), known generally as Grandfather William Commanda. His worldview was grounded in the fully inclusive concept of ginawaydaganuca – way of expressing what modern physicists would speak of as the Unified Field. It’s not a theory. It’s reality.

My deeper appreciation for the importance of the word came from reading the 2017 doctoral thesis of Grandfather Commanda’s longtime companion and biographer, Romola Vasantha Thumbadoo Ph.D. Her thesis is titledGinawaydaganuc and the Circle of All Nations: The Remarkable Environmental Legacy of Elder William Commanda (1913 – 2011).

Romola Vansanta Thumbadoo, and Grandfather William Commanda 

Thumbadoo writes, “Ginawaydaganuc…is the all-encompassing word William Commanda used constantly, affirmative of his belief that all are inextricably connected, both people and all else in the cosmic world we inhabit, contrary to the dualistic and divisive understandings that dominated his times.”

She observes that the word describes a multi-dimensional relationality, the all- encompassing reality of our inter-relationship with all life on Mother Earth, and in the cosmos. This primary relationship requires full-time, full-focus respect.

Ginawaydaganuc celebrates diversity as the principle creative force in evolution. In response, Commanda and Thumbadoo created a discourse around this principle of diversity, and birthed the Circle of All Nations – a vector for weaving Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems for environment, relationships, peace, and social justice.

Kindergarten Dropout

A kindergarten dropout, backwoods guide, and birchbark canoe maker, Commanda late in life was recognized with two honorary doctoral degrees. Then in 2008 he was appreciated with the highest civilian honor of his nation when he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada. Grandfather Commanda was cited for his leadership as an elder who promoted intercultural understanding.

In her doctoral thesis Thumbadoo reports that when accepting the honor, Commanda said: “Inherent in the prayer of the Indigenous Nations of Turtle Island is the deep knowledge that we are all connected – my people in the east say ginawaydaganuc. The prayer is a celebration of the profound knowledge that we are connected with the each other, as well as with the chief elements– Mother Earth, Water, Air and Fire – the animate and inanimate, the plants and animals, and the larger universe, connected energetically.”

Thumbadoo explains that Commanda was keenly aware that ginawaydaganuc – this fundamental law of nature – has been under unceasing assault by the driven will expressed by colonial material industrial forces. The consequences of this assault are evident in the great number of Code Red Warnings that scientists and native elders keep flashing before our collective, global face.

Deep Agroecology is informed by Ginawaydaganuc

Agroecology approaches the task of providing sustenance for all the world in a way that honors the reality of ginawaydaganuc through our farms and food. A widespread, still-emerging international movement, agroecology is expressed through a wealth of creative and urgently needed agrarian initiatives

As the UN’s Human Development Report makes plain, now is the time to choose a safer, fairer path for human development. That’s where the farm, food and land approaches of agroecology can make a tremendous difference.

I regard agroecology as our main chance: the most immediate, practical, and hopeful pathway forward, past the Code Red catastrophes, and onward into a worthy future.

Agroecology is a subject with depth, breadth, and sophistication. It offers a penetrating critique of the status quo, and a far-reaching, environmentally enlightened, justice-based vision of better ways to care for land, plants, animals, and people.

Rather than a mechanistic formula for domination of nature to produce profits for a small group of investors, the core ideas of agroecology arise naturally from living, rhythmic, biological appreciation of the world and the life that inhabits the world—ginawaydaganuc.

Consequently, the global movement toward agroecology has the capacity to continue recognizing and employing systems that bring human needs into right relation with the needs of the natural world.

Some of the systems under the broad conceptual umbrella of agroecology bear names such as organics, biodynamics, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, food coops, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and more.

In addition to engaging Mother Earth with respect, these agroecological forms generally embody awareness of the absolute necessity of advancing social and economic justice for all the people who participate in the food web that stretches from farm fields and fisheries to our dinner tables. That’s respectful relationship, a fundamental necessity. That’s ginawaydaganuc.

Spiritual Maturity

As environmental, economic, and social realities push us hard to enact more intelligent ways of drawing our life from the land, our intelligence cannot be limited to material, mechanical, mathematical, efficiency-dominated systems. Such a limited approach would be tragically inadequate.

Along with ethical science and technology, we need also a feeling, intuitive, nurturing, wholehearted, respectful, and intelligent visionary engagement with land, life, and the cosmic matrix of subtle energies that weave it whole. That would be an expression of spiritual maturity on a cultural level, and it absolutely requires a radiantly healthy agricultural foundation.

Deep agroecology ratifies and embraces the ideas and approaches of agroecology and strives to call wide public attention to the healing agrarian pathways it represents.

Further, deep agroecology explores realms of subtle energy and their consequent influence on farms, food, and people, showing how deeply rooted wisdom ways can help guide both cultural and agricultural practices along necessary evolutionary pathways.

As artist, scientist, and teacher Dennis Klocek has noted in his writings on the New Alchemy, “Sacred agriculture is not just the manipulation of resources, but rather a spiritual act. This is an imperative of evolution, as well as an imperative of survival.”

Deep agroecology appreciates this imperative. I regard it as a direct, conscious, and enormously practical and helpful way of engaging and respecting the reality of ginawaydaganuc, and thereby meeting the challenges embodied in the cauldron of Code Red warnings.


Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in cyberspace atDeepAgroecology.net. Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available at Chiron-Communications.comand on his YouTube channel. You can read all of Steven’s Mother Earth News blog postshere.


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