Sometimes, people ask what we wanted to be while we are/were growing up, and sometimes we answer/ed with the innocence and undimmed hope of childhood. Sometimes, answers are/were filtered through the desperation and fear of a child abandoned, a child mistreated, a child in pain, or of an adult "schooled" in walking in the time and place of assignment, of requirement, of necessity, rather than of a spirit truly free in hope, potential, openness to learning, sharing, making whole the circles of our lives. Sometimes, we make mistakes when we ask, as well as when we answer, and cannot, for whatever decisions and experiences have brought us to this time, have enough perspective to see what might be boundaries of another's expectations, hopes, fears, sorrows.
Why do we share songs with our children, with students, with more adult communities? Why do we tell stories, write poems, paint, and weave, and sculpt, work with the land, work with learned crafts, try to find some skill to sell, some worth to exchange? Is it all for time, for space, for luxuries in life, or to honor, preserve, perpetuate some learning greater than our own story, our individual walk through life?
Life seems intertwined with aspirations and failings, with obstacles, disappointments, grievous sadness, punctuated by the inexorability of age, of the requirements of government, society, employment, by the more constant beauties of sunrise, season, sea-coast, mountain, valley, and long, winding roads... and some roads seem more winding than others.
I have shared, learned, and worked with indigenous students, with indigenous-arts and indigenous-vocations professionals, in several nations. Yes, some knowledge is proprietary to certain settings, some is sacred--and some, the more I learn, is shared, across and between many cultures and peoples across our great planet, in the seemingly endless collections of stories of our time walking upon this earth. We grow more self-aware with age, it seems, and have, with increased capacity to know ourselves, the possibility of increased capacity to share--to fold stories one into the next, with whispers, and shouts, and songs of realization along the way.
I do not always have knowledge and skills adequate for each new setting. My litmus test for coping, for growing within each new challenge is my capacity to learn, to exchange, to grow with as much reciprocity, respect, and resilience as possible... People speak of knowing the "inner child"--not to become so overwhelmed with the pressures of the adult "world" that the clarity and hope, the joy of a child's heart, a child-like heart, become dimmed, or suppressed forever. There is so much commercialization in the world, it becomes difficult to balance the wonderful aspects of technology, of communications, of "advancements" in comfort, health, safety, security, with the ravenous, profit-motivated, winning-is-expansion perspective so common in so many places today. And how can one bring relevance to the sharing and preservation of indigenous knowledge, life-styles, and values to lives which stretch beyond the haven of family, the familiarity of community, the connection of nationality, across the tumult and strife of our diverse pasts, across the promise and precariousness of our increasingly intertwined present, and across the possibilities of a future thankfully still undefined... A future not absolutely determined by the past, but not guaranteed either.
I think the largest successes, and challenges, in implementing aspects of indigenous learning into our lives and the lives of those learning around us, are all tied to relevance, appreciation, respect, and reciprocity. If there is a situation which would break our hearts if our children were part of it, what, then, would be our choices and actions? If there is a possible future which would fill us with joy at the knowledge that our children could be included, contributing, growing to a perspective and potential greater than we have known, what, then, would be our choices and actions? If we ask our children, our children's children, what they want to be when they grow up, will there come a day when the what, the how, the why, when, where, who... become reconciled with equality of respect, promise, fulfillment, regardless of--and respectful of, origin, tradition, culture, language? I cannot walk for others; I cannot want for others; I cannot choose for others. But if I could do anything, I would try, always, to bring the relevance I hope to gift to my children, and their children, to all learning and interactions, to life shared, with the peoples sharing this planet--because, at some level, most people were once indigenous somewhere, and, in an age of increasing connectivity, we are now all indigenous to this earth, and to our shared walk, our shared stories, as humans.
@ 2015, written for https://courses.edx.org/courses/UBCx/IndEdu200x Reconciliation through Indigenous Education