Giants Among Us at the Café Graffiti: The Kitchi-Sabe

By Colin McGregor

Across Canada, different indigenous peoples have different teachings. But many adopt what are known as the Seven Grandfather Teachings. They all share the same concepts of abiding by a moral respect for all living things. Among these is the teaching of honesty.

The Ojibway are the most populous nation north of Mexico. To summarize one of their seven main teachings they use the expression “Kitchi-Sabe.” It means to walk tall, to have integrity.

The Sasquatch, or Sabe, is the symbol of that honesty. It is believed that this giant creature walked among humans long ago to remind us to remain true to our nature. The Sabe keeps us aware of being ourselves and not someone we are not. It is only by being honest that we can have integrity.

The Sabe is closer to the spirit world than we are, it is taught; closer to the Creator.

It would be impossible to fully understand all that Raymond Viger has done – founding the Journal de la Rue, Reflet de Société, The Social Eyes, Café Graffiti, suicide prevention movements… with his mixture of courage and compassion, if you didn’t know that he is a very large man, 6 foot 2, and built like a football lineman. His son Patrick, a gentle mountain of a man who often stops by the Café, is 6 foot 4!

Raymond is an imposing presence with a deep, resounding voice. Danielle Simard, his wife and co-director of the Café Graffiti, is very tall as well. As with many tall people, they have the courage to face down situations which would intimidate and baffle us shorter mortals. And they are at ease with themselves to tell the truth at all times and not overly worry about the consequences. Height and size give an easy grace upon those the Creator has chosen to be man-mountains.

Raymond and Danielle have met with triumph and disaster and treated those two impostors just the same, as Kipling would have said. Raymond has disarmed kids with guns, facing down what must have been some very dangerous situations. When he writes about breaking up a fight between two teens by putting one on his shoulder and holding the second one at arm’s length, that is no exaggeration as to his physical strength and wingspan. And Danielle has sat in on some very contentious situations herself, keeping her sang-froid along the way.

He and Danielle have used their inner Kitchi Sabe to face down Loto-Québec and other large organizations not treating people quite right. He doesn’t look for these fights – it’s as if the Creator sends these fights to his Sabes in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.  

Raymond and Danielle are Sabes, entities for whom integrity and honesty are second nature. We need Sabes in this world people willing to incur loss when telling us as individuals and as a society what the better way might be. Whether it’s with b-boys or compulsive gamblers, Raymond, in his writings as well as his everyday dealings, he keeps us aware that we should be ourselves, not someone we are not – and that the person we are is valued, important, worthy of self-expression and working and making a good living.

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