Sandi’s Book: Teaching Indigenous Concepts of “Clean Work” to Western Business Thought


Terms From Sandi’s Work


Sandi uses some terms in her work which, if explained first, may help the reader better understand her work. I have tried to define them in my simplified terms; she further describes them, including formally in a glossary at the end of the book. They are terms which, as a non-indigenous scholar, I struggled greatly to understand, even through multiple revisions of her thesis.


Indigenous Knowledge: Indigenous knowledge refers to ways of knowing and understanding that are closely tied to the land, one’s community, language, and history.


Western Knowledge: Western knowledge or thinking refers to thinking within the world of Europe and the European-settled Americas. It includes a belief that indigenous ways of knowing are non-western, thereby setting up a dichotomy.


Two-Row Wampum: The Two-Row Wampum Belt symbolizes the underlying ethical principles that governed relationships between the Haudenoshaunee and any other people. When the Dutch came in the early 1600s, they too were given a belt. It consists of two rows of blue with three rows of white beads. It represents the agreement between the two peoples that they will keep their own ways and culture but also recognize an area between them, the rows of blue beads representing the water which brought them together. It represents a space that separates the two peoples but also links them. Sandi also uses it as an example of how something may be written down for both cultures to understand, but without using words.


Ethical Space: Ethical space is an area that must be established if two (or more) entities are to begin to collaborate with conscious caring for each other. Sandi sets out on a journey to discover how establishing an ethical space jointly shared by indigenous and western ways of viewing work can improve the way we conceptualize and construct work.


Tin Can Bear Fat: This is a method for an angler learning to fish, to examine what lies on the bottom of a riverbed by spreading animal fat inside a tin can and lowering the can into the water. The cold water below will congeal the fat, and things from the riverbed will stick to it, such as sand, pebbles, and vegetation. When the angler pulls up the tin can, s/he can see part of what that section of the riverbed looks like. By performing this task at various places in the river, the angler learns things that should help her to fish better. Sandi uses the phrase as an analogy for indigenous learning, whereby one acquires knowledge, not from reading a text, but by listening to many Elders with many different stories to tell. It is somewhat similar to the Eurocentric idea of hermaneutics, to the concept of qualitative as compared to quantitative research. In Sandi’s work, tin can bear fat describes the way she has approached studying native thinking. It is not something one can just find in a book; it must be experienced. As an example, she spent several years working in the kitchens at Spring Camp of her people, listening to the stories, talking with the Elders, asking questions, watching what transpired, what relationships existed, what constituted the formal and informal rules that governed such a community event. She absorbed the culture around her and learned about it by immersing herself in it. In Sandi’s words, “The language of tin can bear fat represents the lived experiences shaping an indigenous research method of inquiry. The experience fits an indigenous world view in which a new angler (that is, researcher) works with Elders and the community knowledge keepers, who have ‘harvested the waters’ before her”. Sandi speaks of each chapter of her work representing a dipping of the can into the water. Repeatedly asking questions about the ethics of caring, she comes to an understanding of the process of indigenous scholarship and how it eventually makes clear the carving out of ethical space between indigenous and western work.


Clean work: Clean work refers to work done with caring, for one’s own work, for the community, for those who differ from us, for the earth. It is work that is done properly, that does good, and that does no harm.


© 2020 M Louise Ripley