Sandi’s Book: Teaching Indigenous Concepts of

“Clean Work” to Western Business Thought

Chapters 5-6



5      Kiwatêhtá hà - to deliver a message


I interpret the experiences as 18 days in ceremony. Others might brush off the coma as simply a phase undertaken by the mind and the body to heal. But I have since been to sweat lodge and out to fast. I remember too much of the 18 days to disregard the visitations from helpers and all creation. The ceremony began simply enough. I had decided to end my life. My personal sadness and grief was too overwhelming to continue. I wanted my life to change and death seemed like the ultimate change strategy.


I had been prescribed sleeping pills to help with the grief, by a doctor who thought if I went to sleep each night, soon I would forget the tragedy that took my fiancés life and set in motion a legal investigation that would disrupt all things that seemed normal.


I also had on hand rat poison, which we had bought to control the mice from the corn fields. With both weapons close by, I sat down to write a final farewell; little did I know that each pen stroke was a pray-line of intention to the Creator. I wrote about needing a purpose in life, wanting health and wellness for my family, who until now was in a downward spiral, and a request for answers.


Ritualistically, I ingested the potion of sleeping pills and rat poison, handfuls at a time, until the entire mixture was gone. I placed my head on the pillow of my bed and the journey began.

Things moved very quickly and at times stopped! It was possible to be both moving and suspended at the same moment. A kaleidoscope of colours and shapes whirled past me as I whisked forward. I have since experienced the same movement during fasts, sweats, and dreams. Sometimes, I have experienced the transfer while fully awake but that’s another story.


There wasn’t a sense of not knowing where I was. I knew I was in transition space, a corridor between creation space and the world I was leaving. It was a space of unconditional love and lightness. In this space, I conversed with ancestors, future generations, and a presence, only known to me as the one who created all things.


It wasn’t as if there was a sense of time but a multitude of pulses measured change. Some pulses vibrated at a steady rate while others hummed similar to a hummingbird’s wings. I could enter both spaces, which altered my vision and sense of knowing the past, present, and future. This lesson, I would bring back with me!


Over a multitude of moments or just one, awareness was created that I needed to return to the physical space. I was a reluctant traveler; I did not want to return. But one does not win when you argue with creation. Suddenly I was aware of my body in the hospital. For my family, I had been suspended in transition for 18 days. Only later did I find out that an agreement had been made to keep me on life support until noon of the day that I came into my body. As some would describe it, I returned to this world at 11:30 a.m.


I cannot say that I came back with ease or that things immediately changed for my family and me. It took time. But what is time...but a series of pulses…some spinning quickly and others very slowly. Somewhere within these moments, happiness and health have embraced us.


And the awareness regarding the lesson that I was to bring back, only now is fully remembered as I write these words.

Interpretation of a personal journey, which occurred June 1983



I have included my dreams and time in ceremony as a guide to understanding vision and reason as I have experienced it. Willie Ermine suggests “ancestral explorers of the inner space encoded their findings in community praxis as a way of synthesizing knowledge derived from introspection”. It is this process into which I step. In addition, my thoughts are influenced by a quote I heard when I was very young, usually attributed to Angela Y. Davis, “Children see things very well; idealists even better”. I interpret the quote to mean that as children see without boundaries or filters, so they see clearly without fear. Idealists know boundaries and filters exist and have no fear to learn how to expand or alter their vision in order to navigate these barriers. This expansion opens the idealist’s eyes to possibilities. My work seeks to embody possibilities through respect (to look again) and reciprocity (to give back) without fear.


However, to interpret or identify the issues of these possibilities, I must step into the place of reason. Located in the West, reason and our caring mind serve to help us to distinguish our feelings and to apply a heart-felt logic to our interpretations. Thus, the inclusion of my story at the beginning of this chapter is a means to introduce the concepts of a good mind or mindfulness in terms of doing.


When I hear the words spoken by Annie Dodge Wauneka, “I’ll go and do more”, I understand their meaning. I naturally jump toward action, sometimes before I have given respect, consideration to relationships, and thoughtfulness to the outcomes. For me, the doing comes naturally. Throughout my doctoral work, my committee had to rein in my work by narrowing the scope to exclude case study input. They understood the complexity of navigating new terrain or as one committee member commented, “stuffing everything into the can before you know the can and the stuff”.


The notion of doing has stalked my academic journey. I have worked more than thirty hours a week since I was 14 years old and have always been in some form of education throughout this journey. I have often suggested that I am an applied theorist because doing has been a constant companion to my studies. Even during my doctoral studies, I have volunteered in my community to support not-for-profit agencies through research and proposal hurdles. The idea of marrying these companions seemed natural. I have learned through Spring Camp, however, that understanding the Counseling Wheel requires pause or time away from action. Silence opens opportunities to nurture. With silence, one is able to hear in order to see more clearly. As example, one of the students who relocated to Trent University from the far North shared with me that she missed the land noise. She longed to hear the sound of the shifting ice, winds, and cracking of the snow. Although Trent was a small community compared to other university locations, she could not distinguish sounds because the urban chatter was interfering with her ability to know and see what was around her.


Silence (vision), relationships, reason, and action are all interconnected but each requires space and purposeful attention to create wholistic awareness. With the encouragement of my committee to grant space to my journey, I now encountered the breadth of a fresh field, waiting to be discovered. To me, this encounter represents the turn-around time of the fasters, who leave an old self behind in the lodge and embrace a new self upon leaving.


The Counseling Wheel and the space of the West, the caring mind, fostered my research into notions of indigenous knowledge and the agency of this knowledge as a means to carve out ethical space, to evoke change, and to guide community actions. From this position, I reflected upon how traditional teachings guide the angler (researcher) to navigate concepts and new understandings from indigenous traditionalism and wholistic principles. Specifically, I took time to reflect upon what Giroux calls “discourses that offer a political and social transformation [by inspiring hope that] different futures are possible”.


The inclusion of my time in ceremony at the beginning of this chapter sets boundaries by investigating these contributions from the lens of a caring mind. The investigation into this arena serves to demonstrate discussions regarding apparent connections between new ways of thinking in western and indigenous theory. These connections require safe passages toward understanding everyday relationships, or at least how one personally navigates the space between.


My fellow doctoral candidate, Susan McBroom, shared a story that epitomizes this navigation. The story described a conversation she had with a friend, who was told by an elder that relations between western and indigenous perspectives were not a matter of building bridges. The true goal is to wade into the waters that separate one from the other and to find safe passages to the other side. If we spend time building bridges, we spend time arguing about how the bridge should look, where it should be located, who manages the bridge, and so forth. Also the elder cautioned that a bridge is open to blockades. With a mind-set to continuously wade into the river, you reason with care. You understand the riverbed is in constant flux, so no one way is ever the same. You recognize that sometimes the path is forbidden, as with fast currents. And you recognize that when the passage is eased by shallow or frozen terrain, you benefit from this opportunity. The story was a powerful reminder to enter this scholarship with a purpose of respect, humility, and mindfulness. This sense of mindfulness is the reason I shared the personal story at the beginning of this chapter. The story brings to light traditional teachings, which focus our attention to uphold a good mind. Sometimes this effort is difficult, as with the rapids of the river and other times, it is a gift.


As example, during my participation with a community event, Anataras [1](Mohawk Knowledge Keeper) asked our community whether we considered our project as nurtured by a good mind. He shared a philosophy that politics, economics, and institutional work needed to be balanced by the good mind as this work was often difficult and crooked. Similar to the creation story of our people, our daily thoughts and actions would be twisted and distorted by the conflict of a crooked mind. To keep these thoughts and actions in balance, we needed to include ceremony and prayer as part of our daily practice. The origins of this ceremony and prayer are located within our Thanksgiving Address. My opening personal story and Anataras’s counseling bring to light the power of the good mind, which is the gift of creation. In this dynamic environment, the full gamut of our relationships orchestrates patterns that provide instruction regarding how to determine the interconnectedness and how to function from a compassionate and a good mind, providing stable footing as we wade in. When I share my story, I emphasize that the condition of my mind when I left the 18 days in ceremony was extraordinarily different than the mind that entered. This dynamic state of change is held sacred by what Stewart-Harawira terms a “deep compassion [that comes] from truly experiencing and knowing our interconnectedness with each other”.


In Bill Ashcroft’s text, Post-Colonial Transformation, he speaks about this state of change through the analogy of verandas, which are not in or outside of a house but somewhere in transition. As such, this space is the contact zone between western and traditional boundaries. Consequently the space has the power to transform, through its created sense of urgency. In this space, both sides are exposed due to the porous nature of the structure of the veranda. The outcome is a mindset to transculturality of place, while acknowledging the boundaries of the affirmed identities of both the in and the outside space of the house. The personal experience shared at the beginning of this dream serves to inform the reader to see both spaces.


Edward Said describes this experience as a conscious effort to voyage in. Although Said speaks about the experience as invasive tactics, it is possible to wade in as a means to find safe passage. In terms of the angler, the wading in is another option to explore the terrain and the elements that define how to catch fish. The tactic is one which utilizes traditional teachings and stories to inform actions as a means for indigenous knowledge to act as “critical organic catalyst”, to interlope mainstream practices and to carve out ethical space.


I spoke earlier of my role as amplifier, turning up the volume. Advancing these perspectives through how others are reasoning in academia and the reflections from my counselors, the angler’s role is to uncover indigenous knowledge and ethical space as a means to navigate the space between indigenous and non-indigenous thought. Through an indigenous manifestation of reason, these textual informants are drawn from interpretations by reflecting upon secondary questions, how does understanding power, action, and relationships inform our answer to the question “Is your work clean?” The literature regarding power and action articulates a new role for aboriginal people, balancing traditional and contemporary technologies. As a resource, scholars outline key areas in which aboriginal people’s contribution will be instrumental to the future, within both the local and the broader community.


What is power? The recollection at the beginning of this chapter carries with it an awareness of power’s role to set intention and healing. In my recall and senses, I remember an awareness of power akin to vitality, natural vibrations, the connections among past, present, and future and the life force of creation. Reviewing Thomas Maracle’s definition for indigenous knowledge, I distinguish three attributes of power:


1.   It’s the power of a good mind;

2.   It’s imperfect;

3.   It’s a gift bestowed by the Creator.


   Perhaps it is not actually meant to be interpreted in this manner. However, these attributes are encouraged by our creation stories, which speak to the balance between the Good Mind and the Crooked Mind, as spoken of by Dan Longboat and John Mohawk. From the duty of the Sun to provide life-giving light and warmth to the duty of the winged ones whose songs bring us joy, all creation is granted power through its gifts regardless of the imperfection of their being. I know that imperfection is part of our journey, as I conclude the Thanksgiving Address with a request that my words might be corrected if I have forgotten or misspoken any of the address.


The process of involving our stories and our words to express indigenous knowledge as ethical space removes our thoughts from the western expressions of power and action. As argued by Wanda Wuttunee, community wellbeing, according to our elders means aboriginal wisdom. These assets reflect our skills and represent our intellectual and human capital. In this context, the concept of power is not bad but understood from a position of “minimum domination”, which Foucault refers to as the reciprocity of relationships. New concepts of power, which seek to minimize dominant structures, are surfacing in western scholarship with regard to organizational and institutional models. Within this context, structures and processes based on hierarchical social relationships are redesigned to facilitate hubs or networks as alternative power dynamics.


Known as knowledge networks or nodes, these new structural and process designs focus on relationships, resources, and inter-connectedness through structures, power alliances, and skills as a means to synchronize the effectiveness of the units within this hub. Within the realm of network and change theory, theorists are examining the informal elements that come together organically to support the formal ties, which in turn influence power dynamics. Within an indigenous expression, the concept of power also includes a reflection on the quality of life and one’s ability to sustain this quality for our children who are at the centre of our families and communities.


The approach expands upon empirical explorations that relate theoretical interpretations by exposing gaps between theory and evidence. The trick is to move back and forth between the tracks of analysis, text, and experience. Through community action, meaning, and reality, the larger environmental context such as the macrocosm of the angler’s landscape and the local knowledge are exchanged, which empowers the individual to act, to undertake an exchange that acknowledges all creation as equal participants in the process.


The exchange creates, transmits, and sustains meaning for all participating members, including all creation. This inclusion enables individual actions to align to structures of power and action, both seen and unseen within the universal whole. Tin can bear fat incorporates this macro-micro exchange. Our actions and the associated power to act rely on relationships, reflection, and behaviours of respect and reciprocity. This exchange is the micro-macro process that binds individual power to collective agency.


When I return to my roots as an organizational theorist, I recollect the works of Barbara Townley and her analysis of power in Foucault’s scholarship. Her investigation of Foucault was conducted in order to reframe how human resource management defines power. It defines it as ethos for how to behave by creating a response to power of specific types: political, social, institutional, and others. Townley raises several facets of understanding the concept of knowledge/power relationships. It is important to acknowledge that a clear opponent is not always evident when power does not emanate from the centre due to marginal participation of others who have begun to deconstruct or introduce new emancipatory practices. Within this context, relationships are reorganized and redisciplined with ethical techniques for collective change.


My recollection of Townley also brought to mind the work of Roy Bowles. His assessment of community social vitality illustrates community models of power relationships such as networks established in order to react collectively and constructively to both internal and external threats. These networks focus on their capacity and are the essence of human capital, which fuels political and economic efficacy.


I ponder whether the political ethos of indigenous theory supposes new responses to western power models and in turn serves as new ways of thinking for ethical transformation. The identification of power models and perceived differences from western and indigenous scholarship regarding these models may lead to points of resentment and failed relationships at the macro levels of nation-to-nation negotiations and the micro levels of individual health.


As I turn to the Counseling Wheel, I ponder my understanding of indigenous knowledge as ethical space and in particular, the teachings associated with action, as the phase that follows one’s journey through vision, relationships, and reason. In essence, the meaning that I discern from these teachings is awareness that actions inform our reflection and awareness of the world around us. If I return to the question “Is your work clean?” or the follow-up questions “Does your work help?” and “Does your work harm?” I locate the concept of power and action within the instructions of a good mind.


Building this macro-micro relationship requires a reflection upon the landscape familiar to me. Just as the angler familiarizes herself with the shoreline, the special rock that hides the big one, or trails laid down by deer and other land creatures that turn to the environment for livelihood, this section brings to light trends within indigenous knowledge to create ethical practice. The value of this is to uncover meaning, to monitor the development, and to identify points of organization that have been documented by indigenous knowledge scholarship with regard to macro-micro relationships alongside western knowledge systems.


As example, Raymond Obomsawin wrote in his review of indigenous knowledge and sustainable development, that the strength of the indigenous view is the ability to see and connect disciplines. This wholistic perspective and the resulting synergism show higher levels of developmental impact, adaptability, and sustainability, more so than many conventional western specialties and disciplines have fostered.


         Within indigenous scholarship, how we interpret our knowledge capacity appears to be skewed by historical interpretations of indigenous knowledge that have created a primitive way of viewing. Battiste and Henderson suggest this was created by limited lexicons and dictionaries located in a eurocentric worldview. They suggest the eurocentric quest for universal meaning imposes a singular meaning of indigenous knowledge, when in fact, all aspects of this knowledge suggest diverse processes for creating, transmitting, and sustaining various definitions. Battiste and Henderson stress recognizing and respecting indigenous knowledge as it comes from the community.


In this sense, the reciprocity among knowledge, power, and action is articulated by Rebecca Adamson as “the most crucial of all human assets, without which little can be done to control the physical assets and systems upon which we depend and set a course for the future”. Adamson illustrates a communal voice to concur with the scholastic call for indigenous knowledge as the means to create equity for aboriginal peoples. The concept of indigenousness grants agency to macro-micro relationship and in return indigenous knowledge capacity.


The agency is a collective response that Dei terms “knowledge consciousness arising locally and in association with long-term occupancy of a place”. Notably, Dei differentiates indigenous knowledge from conventional knowledge as the absence of colonial and imperial imposition. Indigenous knowledge represents a dynamic process between local and global, multiple and collective origins, which is based on “cognitive understandings and interpretations of the social, physical, and spiritual worlds”.


         The inclusion of the 18 days in ceremony, at the beginning of the chapter, is a reminder of the attributes of a dynamic process. Sometimes things move out of our perceived sequence or mental sense-making, when operating as a dynamic process. I often joke that as a Seneca woman invited to learn Anishnaabe teachings, I get confused about which way to walk in ceremony. In my tradition, our people walk counterclockwise, whereas Anishnaabe people walk the circle in a clockwise motion. Sometimes I joke that I am bumping into myself as I am both coming and going. The process is one of both coming and going, as we spiral back in our steps to mend relationships or to see again something that was forgotten.


This lesson is brought to light in Keith Basso’s text Wisdom Sits in Place, which explores an orientation to oral narrative, retrieval of history, and the Apache peoples’ place in terms of their language, their traditions, and their relationship with the land. In their descriptions, the narrators Charles Henry and Morley Cromwell who share their stories with Basso, offer “no theories, tests of hypotheses, or general models [to] prove their accounts” of the past. Their presentation of indigenous knowledge as history is retrieved through the relationship of the narrator as a witness and a translator of ancestral events. In this context, Basso illustrates how we arrive at a concept of caring held sacred by spaces, waiting to be witnessed by willing observers.


The context introduced by Basso’s text is an insight into reason and mindfulness as existing outside of human domains but within the moral imagination applied and incorporated into our personal and social experiences. Through this understanding, the relationship of person to land becomes a means to manifest a heartfelt way of knowing and enters into a reciprocal relationship. As well, the relationship illustrates ancestral knowledge as a powerful ally and source of resilience. Furthermore, Basso’s scholarship suggests the process includes dreams, the land, day-to-day experiences, and stories as informants to knowledge creation, with a reminder to researchers to open our hearts and spirits to enlarge our knowledge capacity.


To me, the notion of creating mindfulness and in turn equitable space in academia is akin to creating ethical space in that its place alongside western thought has been suppressed cognitively by colonization resulting in a fractured sense of knowing. The breadth and depth of indigenous knowledge discourse is organized around key contributions that reflect the diversity of indigenous thought creation, transmission, and sustainability. Some discourse is readily accessible within ethical, political, philosophical, and institutional conversations while others need to be uncovered through dreams, ceremonies, and in the landscape.


The Counseling Wheel provides a lens to regard ethical space within an indigenous philosophical perception as a distinction from eurocentric structures and methods of knowledge. I interpret the landscape I know through a conscious reasoning and activism toward indigenous methods of doing. I engage this philosophical reasoning as future opportunities to create space within all institutional forums, that is, legislative, educational, political, and organizational with an intention toward ethical space and scholarship. In this context, the emergence of indigenous knowledge requires an expansion of our field of vision to nurture ideas, strategies, and response, which relate to the narrative of the speaker, creating a dynamic and fluid space for thought and meaning.


Chapter Summary


To some, the inclusion of my 18 days in ceremony or as others might interpret it, my 18 days in a coma, has no bearing on the intellectual discussion of macro-micro relationships, indigenous versus non-indigenous relationships, and issues of power, action, and change. Nevertheless, it is a story of a mind, one which straddled the lines of reason and vision, and occupied the space between.


Committee members have asked me along this journey, why I care. My answer returns me to this space, one filled with unconditional love and caring. It is possible for me to close my eyes and return to the feelings of this space, to feel the power of the journey and the moments held captured in time or pulsating beyond comprehension. Each day, I function with an awareness of this space that at times alters my sense of balance and wholeness.


I care because at the core of the Counseling Wheel is the inter-connectedness of all things and to examine this interconnectedness is fundamentally the gift of indigenous knowledge as ethical space and a means to engage the question “Is your work clean?” Along with other scholars, I aim to demonstrate indigenous and non-indigenous examples of knowledge networks, which build individual and communal levels of understanding and awareness toward power, action, and relationships.


These networks fostered collective knowledge as a means to evoke change and to guide community actions. Within these networks, standard definitions of power, knowledge, and action, which have set trends in organizational change and indigenous theory, are challenged through a system of caring. Within this system, new trends promote respect, responsibility, and reciprocity. Through these behaviours, I extended the notion of indigenous knowledge as ethical space as a means to leverage indigenous capacity and agency.


The contact zone is tactical but more important to an indigenous knowledge as ethical space argument, it is a natural part of creation. As demonstrated, the space between offers alternative ways of contact. The analogies of verandas, voyaging in, or wading in speak to a movement toward commonalities as a point of exchange between dominant and other. In my assessment, I did not state whether these commonalities within organizational theory, knowledge archeology, or indigenous knowledge frameworks are deliberate. The point of this journey is to explore knowledge and stories as opportunities to engage a mindset to care. Within this context, I positioned indigenous knowledge as a means to build community and individual capacity because this knowledge operates as a wholistic system.


6      Kekunysthá - to scrutinize something


Prairie Grass,

As a child, I hid among the tall grass, my head barely exposed to the harvest sun. In and out, I ran, chasing the Prairie wind through the waving strains of Mother’s hair.


In my youth, I stomped the grass to the sound of drums and bells. It took a long time for me to see that the grass was my partner, not my foe.


As an adult, the grass tapped my shoulders for my attention, waiting for me to put down my work. Waiting as we both grew old. My partner replaced by the Corporate Stair.


Silently, the grass danced alone. Her strains are graying in the golden sun. She whispers, Come look remember the friendly challenge of our feet, before our bodies slow.


One last dance, around in memory, my face turned to the sun. I rest within the ground – the grass blankets me in comfort as I surrender to death’s embrace.


Mother drums our song and again the grass dances back, green and new. My spirit sways as the wind through Mother’s hair chasing the next generation who now dance in my place.


Written for my Dad,

Born Outlook, Saskatchewan, February 19, 1915

His Last Dance, April 25, 2006



As shared in the poem to my father, I am a person who has navigated the space between, moving between worldviews, perceived as traditional as expressed by the grass dancer and as western as expressed by the corporate climber. My journey fosters a philosophical belief of side-by-side existence as depicted through the Medicine Teachings and the Counseling Wheel. As a mixed heritage woman, I experience this side-by-side relationship at all levels: biological, emotional, and spiritual. I also believe this side-by-side existence at a personal level is a gift, granted by the Creator. The power of this gift is what Fixico terms, “a native cyclical mind operating in the western linear society”. This gift focuses my attention on patterns in my professional life informed by non-aboriginal relationships as well as those nurtured in ceremonies with elders. As a consequence, my scholarship for indigenous studies, as it might interlope and influence change, resides in new ways of examining tradition, which acknowledges that the historical and modern occupy the same space.


In the Counseling Wheel, this belief is linked to the North and its lessons for creating action plans and positioning our behaviour so we may come together through meetings governed by respect, relationships, reason, and behaviours of peace. I am not naïve to the difficulties of a side-by-side existence. My life story, if written in its entirety, would dispel any sense of perception that I am young, foolish, or inexperienced in the issues of our people. I do accept a definition of being benign but only if the definition returns to the roots of the word, which originated from the words for: well = bene and born = genus. In this context, I link my journey to the turn-around time of fasters, the core of the Stages of Life Teachings, and the Counseling Wheel, which speaks to the preparations of the North as an opportunity to begin the journey with new vitality, hope, and vision. In this manner, I embrace a sense of kindness and try to examine the divergence of thoughts associated with attempting to set down actions and behaviours for a side-by-side existence.


One might ponder whether my work engages the questions whose knowledge and whose space is authentic or relevant to the ethical space. On a personal level, I would include the diverse voices that contribute to the sacred whole, and certainly, within my own carving out of ethical space, I include in this space my family, its diversity, and the diversity of our future generations. It is not my intention to debate or address the challenges or limitations of this discussion with regard to these theories. The cursory look at these and other theories is to understand the course of action that stems from binary discourse and our inclusion of essentialism as a strategic source of creating space for side-by-side relationships. In this section, I begin to put this relationship into context as I explore the indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge trends, in particular those relevant to my roots: economic, community, organization, and workplace theory. I borrow from other theorists who have explored similar binary means as a way to understand the spaces that separate and connect.


Lisa Lowe’s analysis of intercommunity differences, in her case Asian-American, results in the creation of binary terms, for example, white and non-white or dominant and minority/marginal relationships. From these binary relationships, Lowe demonstrates notions of nationalism, cultural diversity, and resistance, which surface against the dominant structures of power. From Lowe’s findings, I acknowledge the agency of strategic essentialism as an action plan in accordance with the North and the Counseling Wheel teachings to establish a timeline and a perspective of the relationship between aboriginal and western knowledge. This strategic essentialism assumes a position that aboriginal knowledge was not lost by colonization but rather through underground tactics by aboriginal communities, or deliberate ignorance from western scholarship. Aboriginal ways of knowing and being went unnoticed because they simply did not register as part of the day-to-day experience of co-existence.


Borrowing from Lowe’s analysis, I suggest that indigenous knowledge systems attract and sway western knowledge systems by emphasizing essential indigenous knowledge components because these components appear interesting to western thinkers. This essentialism improves the location for indigenous knowledge networks as gained from the political positioning of various heterogeneous groups. As a collective voice, the indigenous agenda re-emerges alongside western knowledge to demonstrate the differences between western and indigenous knowledge. In return, western knowledge moves closer to indigenous knowledge because the essential components of indigenous knowledge systems appear as opportunities to redefine the broader social context.


The discussions regarding such things as identity, nationalism, assimilation, colonization, decolonization, negotiation, re-acculturalization, modernity, and traditionalism have examined the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures since the original contact. Within these discussions, binary differences surface to distinguish the collectivism of indigenous knowledge systems as essentially wholistic, cyclical, and non-static from the homogeneity of western knowledge as essentially categorical, linear, and static. In a sense, this is a strategic action plan for guiding how we see, hear, reason, and behave, in a side-by-side existence, and sets the ground work for carving out ethical space shared within these side-by-side relationships.


Similar action plans are being explored by western scholars. In particular, scholarship associated with new ways of thinking and intuitive based models engaged thinkers to examine beliefs, values, and power dynamics as opportunities for facilitating dialogue between diverse communities. As a result, I believe we are negotiating a rise in models of knowledge creation, transmission, and sustainability. These models support a dynamic and wholistic view of knowledge, in particular indigenous knowledge as a medium for sacred or ethical space.


Nevertheless I acknowledge the difficulty of investigating a side-by-side relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous worldviews as many participants do not regard the playing field as equitable. In the poem that opens this chapter, I imply a desire to engage the corporate stair as an advantage that suspends traditional opportunities, until I return to it, later in life. Perhaps this return epitomizes the Stage of Life Teachings, as one weaves a journey through the Wandering and Wondering years toward the years of Truth and Action. It links to the Counseling Wheel’s adverse behaviours of inferior (to see one as less than), negative attitude (to prevent trust), resentment (to rationalize poor thoughts), and jealousy (to stifle the capacity, capabilities, and outcomes of others).


The outcome of adverse attributes of the wheel is a movement within indigenous scholarship to articulate the gaps in western knowledge to tackle the complex analysis of current aboriginal-non aboriginal relations and uncover philosophical resistance by nation-state institutions operating within western methods. From this analysis, indigenous scholarship re-emerges. As example, Champagne argues for traditional and cultural institutional models representative of aboriginal political, social, and economic sustainability. Similarly through the poem, I metaphorically share my desire to advance indigenous knowledge, as represented by the land and the dancer’s relationship to the grass. From this metaphor, I see the emergence of traditional thought in the academy, represented by indigenous knowledge scholarship.


Still, the difficulty of speaking to indigenous knowledge is played up by western thinkers, particularly those with political agency. They utilize our concerns that policies tend to adopt a one-size-fits-all method of addressing aboriginal rights in Canada as an excuse to delay responses to local communities. These agents point to our own scholarship as a defense, citing internal conflicts regarding hybridization of knowledge as a critique for indigenous expressions of indigenous knowledge since the policies fail to acknowledge the local context in terms of history, culture, and environment.


The inclusion of the poem to my father is an acknowledgement of the complexity of issues relevant to an action plan that fosters a space for meeting, caring, and co-existing. It is an acknowledgement that the hybridization argument seeks a cultural synergy, much like the dancers in the poem. In the context of tin can bear fat, cultural synergy relies on the continuous dipping of the can. From these actions, we articulate the diversity of the parts while moving towards an interpretation of the whole.


As if in response, Louise Grenier’s scholarship offers a perspective of indigenous knowledge within a broader context as being characterized by existing and developing knowledge and technologies retained and acquired by populations indigenous to a particular geographic location. The location may or may not include diverse populations. Effectively, Grenier’s definition proposes that indigenous knowledge is located in one community’s experience, which appears to operate through the shared knowledge, brought to light by its members and their relationships to the broader networks. Grenier’s definition opens our minds to accept the multiplicity of indigenous knowledge that implies a plurality to the term. Her concepts also suggest an inclusion within the process for non-indigenous influences.


These attributes are not foreign to or in conflict with the natural law of traditional perspectives, in terms of community and shared knowledge. With knowledge keepers such as wampum belt readers, they shared perspectives regarding natural law as those woven into our responsibilities, specifically as treaties of co-existence between western and Indian nations. These responsibilities laid down behaviours and principles that foster side-by-side systems, which are synchronized, equal, and free. These instructions institutionalized values and shared intentions for respect, peace, and friendship.


The two row wampum, a sixteenth century action plan, narrates an agreement between the Haudenoshaunee people, who at the time occupied territories along the southern borders of the Great Lakes, with members of the Dutch nation who were migrating in. It was originally woven of shells and later of beads to create the blue and white lines seen in Figure 8.


Figure 8: Two Row Wampum


In this action plan, indigenous and non-indigenous peoples established the principles for side-by-side coexistence. The blue lines represent the waters that carried the nations to the land they were to inhabit side-by-side. The white lines represent the behaviours and actions that will continue this cooperative relationship: respect, peace, and friendship.


Imbedded into this agreement were not only the principles of the two nations, Dutch and Haudenoshaunee, but aspects of the land, the waters, and all creation. Specifically, the shells represented the embodied wholistic assumption of the Haudenoshaunee people that the Dutch would contribute to this communal exchange, as implied by the word kaswëhta'. This word is linked to other words, and their meaning is important to our understanding of the wampum. The first word kaswa’ means rib or bone from the body. Parker offers another word tkaswinetha', meaning “For there to be a warming trend”. Both words, I have been told, establish the sense of caring at the bases for the agreement[2].


The wampum holds significant meaning in understanding the carving out of ethical space. The notion of ethics is expanded to concepts of care through this example of the relationship of the wampum. The shell serves as a living witness to the agreement the wampum intends. Each bead carries the life force of the shells and each brings its relationship to creation, via water and land. As a living witness, the shell embodies expectations regarding intention and coherence of the story woven into the belt.


Within the tin can bear fat analysis, intentions bind the principles of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity to the worldview and in the wampum case, to a worldview that creates ethical space for side-by-side co-existence. From this connection, the exchange begins to define for me the intent of the question “Is your work clean?” Specifically, I gather support for an assumption that the mythical responsibility of creation, as shared through our stories and physical capabilities demonstrated by the creation of the beads from the shell, is linked to the political and social agency as intended by the wampum’s message “For there to be a warming trend”. Both sets of actions consider the impact of creation and intention in terms of whether it will help or harm, the secondary questions that govern our sense of doing within the macro context of all creation.


To reflect on these actions, I turn your attention back to the poem, Prairie Grass. As the poem suggests, many people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, engage in the side-by-side existence metaphorically expressed as a grass dancer and a corporate climber, and we negotiate our place between these existences. Sometimes, we must leave one and then return later in life, when we have established the skills to negotiate. Other times, with skills, knowledge, and practice, we create pathways, hooks, and strategies that allow us to jump back and forth, borrowing tools, techniques, and resources. In other situations, the side-by-side relationships conflict and seek separate roads, with little or no interaction between the two worlds. With this separation, the notion of helping others becomes disenfranchised from the community.


         When I began my research at Trent University, I brought with me a desire to affect economic, community, and/or organizational development. My rationale for these areas of study was to build upon the concept of caring as a model for change. Specifically, I wished to pursue how we create and sustain livelihood among our people. Scholars such as Wanda Wuttunee are investigating these efforts within aboriginal organizations and nations across Canada to encourage traditional perspectives as contemporary responses to community economic development. I engage this conversation to give authority to indigenous knowledge as a fulcrum to scholastic development and future trends in indigenous knowledge through the concept of sacred or ethical space. The movement toward indigenous knowledge systems is undertaken by western theorists who seek new perspectives, either as a consequence of entering into multiple conversations as representative of post-colonial or post-modernism theories, or as a means of self-preservation, or perhaps, as a means to care. Within this concept of caring, it is possible to locate interdependency and indigenous knowledge which demonstrate economic, political, kinship, community, and ceremonial connections. Within these models, aboriginal and non-aboriginal scholars are moving toward action plans that guide and shape decision-making, values, and philosophical orientations associated with doing and being.


I have found indigenous economic development research that has begun to articulate two patterns relevant to native entrepreneurship: tribal enterprise and individual capitalist entrepreneurialism. Both of these concepts illustrate movement toward building ethical space for negotiation and co-existence between the binary models of indigenous and non-indigenous economic theory. As a result, new initiatives are creating substantial growth in native business. The outcome of engaging in the analysis of state-work perspectives is an understanding that political responses to economic development and cultural sustainability are a futurist’s perspective of state-aboriginal relations. With the opportunity to create, leverage, and sustain strategic action plans, this is a perspective worth pursuing.


There are potential barriers associated with this action plan and with setting new trends. As example, Marcia Nozick’s research examines barriers and social considerations for creating a model of sustainable community economic development. She outlines the major barriers as:


1.   Declining local economies due to de-industrialization and the draining of wealth out of communities by large, outside-owned companies;

2.   Loss of citizen control as decisions affecting the future of communities are made by higher levels of government and corporations with no personal stake in the community;

3.   Social degradation and neglect of human needs as increasing numbers of people are abandoned to homelessness, joblessness, and unsafe living conditions;

4.   Social environmental degradation as local water, air, and soil are poisoned by industrial and consumer waste and pollution;

5.   Erosion of local identity and cultural diversity as we conform to the homogeneous values of a mass consumer society.


Nozick proposes a framework that allows local exchange among members of the community, in turn increasing the community’s capacity for self-reliance. This she says avoids “exploitation and domination”. She suggests community autonomy and decision-making power rely on grassroots structures, which build membership, coalitions, relationships between groups, and innovative models of ownership and resource management. These structures are sustained through respectful, responsible, and reciprocal actions and behaviours. They are also sustained by continuously renegotiating, revisiting, and rearticulating the strategy when we continuously dip the can.


These innovative models are positioned to fit into the social, physical, and personal networks of individuals and the broader community. The process is expressed as a movement to help others. This movement links to the question attributed to the old one when he asks, “Is your work clean?” Similarly, new trends in western organizational theory are aligning knowledge and action, focusing on knowledge exchange as a leverage for improving work and the translation of single sources of data into shared systems. Although examples of stories and storytelling have only emerged within western knowledge theory as a means to transmit constructed organizational meaning, the emphasis is on moving the group, subgroup, or individual toward a desired monopolistic interpretation, a shared space for vision, relationships, identity, and action. These shared attributes are already present within the Counseling Wheel, as illustrated in Chapter One.


Revisiting my roots as an organizational theorist, I see the inclusion of stories as an opportunity to build organizational capacity by utilizing the networks or hubs of knowledge located within the institution. Similar to the Counseling Wheel, the inclusion of stories is a means to sit with elders and traditional knowledge keepers to understand the depth of each space, vision, time, feeling, or movement. In the organizational context, the stories facilitate the advancement of networks and demonstrate the commitment of leaders and organizational members to care.


         The notion of commitment to care is represented in the work of Edward Boyle as he documents fellow scholar William Waters’ work regarding hard core economic concepts. Together, they introduce some basic premises. The individual is the basic unit of the economy, who acts freely, self-interestedly, and calculatedly in a self-regulating economy, whose economic behaviour is grounded in reason, and though it changes as economic conditions change, is predictable and knowable with mathematical certainty and empirical precision, and whose ultimate worth is determined instrumentally. The theorists continue to argue a philosophical perspective of mainstream economics that oscillates between individualism, where persons are free to choose, and utilitarianism, where persons are like a machine.


The shift between these two outcomes is driven by competition and reward at one end of the spectrum of influences, and by cooperation and collective effort at the other end. As fallout from these philosophical premises, mainstream institutions and economic practices are designed to advance the welfare of the few (board or shareholders) through the organized work of the many as machine (production lines). In this model, the advantages of a few are a direct result of a limited desire to care. The economic behaviour is supported by reason located in a worldview that also supports individualism and moral rules that advance one person over another. In this model, one’s action of continuously dipping the can ceases to be about the process or what I might learn from this. Instead the actions are tied to the product or what I might get from this.


         As a consequence of rethinking conventional mainstream practices, theorists have introduced concepts of personalism, culture, and spiritual capitalism as explorations into more humanistic outcomes. The push toward personalism versus individualism seeks to eliminate the division of economics into micro and macro dimensions, which separate the individual and society. The concept of personalism also introduces the role of culture as a social force that improves our sense of caring for one another. This concept moves economic thought beyond standard variables tied to social dimensions such as family structure and income. As well, the movement emphasizes economic modeling based on authentic realities of community and persons rather than the mathematical model. These realities utilize abstract thinking often located in disciplinary studies associated with faith, theological, or spiritual points of reason.


In the past, separation between western and indigenous concepts and plans for action to address our side-by-side existence resulted for two reasons. The first reason was a resistance within indigenous communities against ideological infiltration. The second reason was a perceived superiority by western scholarship that resulted in a marginalization of aboriginal economic ways of knowing and doing and resulted in inequitable responses to aboriginal community practices. Although more recent government-aboriginal relations appear to have moved into a state of equity, the balance of power and resources often remains with state institutions, through legislative or fiduciary controls. Consequently, state agents create a perception of operating on a level playing field, while in reality the playing field is upset by systemic barriers that prevent equal partnership at the decision-making table.


Reports, such as the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the more recent Strengthening the Relationship, Report on the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable, concur that new and innovative directions must be adopted by government agents to build a strong and sustainable partnership with aboriginal peoples. To renew relationships, aboriginal communities recommend a revitalization of the machinery and governing institutions, which I suggest draw upon the principles to establish ethical space. These principles are imbedded in the question “Is your work clean?”


Specifically, the principles are imbedded within the movement toward side-by-side co-existence. The principles call for the creation of safe passages or ethical space to evoke change and structures to create equitable and sustainable indigenous practices, territories, and culture. Cautiously, I acknowledge statements that despite community effort to create indigenous theory, practice, and tradition, the universality of modernity brings with it a discourse of difference. It is not my intention to dismantle the binary opposites of these terms or represent the Counseling Wheel as a post-modern, post-colonial, or neo-colonial argument. My goal is to dip the can into the various narratives regarding the emergence of indigenous knowledge as a means to carve out ethical space in order for the reader to establish a sense of what a side-by-side existence entails and the behaviours and actions that emerge within a system of caring.


In an effort to explore this system of caring, I turned to examples such as the advancement of indigenous knowledge toward sustainable community development, and those in western scholarship which began repersonalization of responsibility to include a wholistic vision. Within these examples, the assumed gap between indigenous and non-indigenous perceptions appeared narrowed or at least surfaced as trends toward a shared system of caring. Much of the movement has been initiated by native activists and scholars, who denounce the modern and capitalistic-positivist views. In these movements, both indigenous and non-indigenous theorists call for new ways to be created within western thinking for visioning and valuing the workplace that include intuitive or spiritual knowing as an evolution of global mind change, which redefines our relationship to the world.


Perhaps it is my personal meeting of Willis Harman at a conference for Spirit in the Workplace that draws me toward his work. The meeting transpired in the summer of 1996, the year before his death. I came into the meeting late and the only chair available was the one next to Willis. He had set the room up so over 60 people were sitting in a circle. Each person was able to see the face of all the participants. Willis laughed when he spoke and his sense of knowing was infectious. I sat beside him and instantly we were in an unconscious synchronicity. He spoke about a vision for engaging workplace theory and organizational leadership from a spirit-based and intuitive practice. Since he died, I am certain that he continues to inspire my thoughts about workplace evolution. I have conversations with him in my dreams and know that often, in my wake state, when I speak, I am sharing our conversations.


When I reflect upon Harman’s analysis, I understand his passion to challenge incongruities between work practices that emphasize the wholistic, and western business frameworks that fragment the whole into disconnected and disjointed parts. Harman states, “the realities of traditional culture are proving to be more resilient than expected… cultural leaders see that optimal development of people in the broadest sense is not necessarily fostered by abandoning their own cultural roots. Global development will not continue to be, as at present, toward western industrial monoculture; rather, it will be toward an ecology of diverse cultures, each with its own interpretation of human development, societal goals, and ultimate meaning”.


In the context of my own studies, Harman and Hormann’s work represents a sense that organizational theory is on a path of natural evolution to engage in social and spiritual transformation. To me, their work is situated in a system of care, which builds upon the strategic essentialisms of indigenous knowledge systems. For example, Harman and Hormann charted the evolution of organizations and business leadership. In their work, they suggested that new paradigms or different views or ways of understanding the world, in workplace theory, will incorporate attributes that nurture diverse and unique ways of knowing and doing. This evolution is charted below:


Table 1: The Evolution of Organizations


1. Reactive

2. Responsive

3. Proactive

4. “New Paradigms”







Diffused focus

Output focused

Results focused

Quality: growth of people


Justification, little planning

Plan for anticipated situation

Strategic planning

Intuition-guided evolution

Change Mode






Top-down decisions, fix blame

Manage through coordination

Manage through alignment

Provide vision and leadership




Matrix organization

Self-directed networks

Individual’s perspective

Self-centered, personal

Team performance

Organizational effectiveness

Culture, nation, world

Assumed Motivation

Avoid pain, immediate rewards

Economic and status awards

Contribution and recognition

Personal self-actualization

Development Through

Continued survival


Attunement to wellbeing of the whole

 Continued transformation


Orders and incentives from top down

From the top, informed by feedback

Communication both up and down

Empathetic communication throughout






Adapted from High Performance Programming: A Framework for Transforming Organizations


When I envision an action plan to move toward this system, my thoughts include the patterns as articulated by Harman and Hormann. These patterns promote social and economic transformation which initiates workplace transformation, that is, what we do represents the most basic level of actions toward creating a better world. In this context, the patterns provide an understanding from a study of being that celebrates doing with an intention to care. I interpret these celebrations as I do the Thanksgiving Address, as an opportunity to revitalize our relations with one another and all creation.


         In my research I have given consideration to these views located in both indigenous and non-indigenous scholarship as a means to carve out a shared understanding for the concept to care. In the circle, the scholarship establishes new interest as a spirit-based philosophy for organizational development. In some texts, the movement toward this philosophy, sacred and ethical, seeks a shift in values, attitudes, and perceptions associated with individual and business practices. Instead, Harman says the philosophy suggests work choices that reflect “the fundamentally good, honest, and purposeful person, who wants to make a constructive contribution to the world”.


These choices are initiated through an open mind, which applies principles of what Harman terms, deep intuition. The evolution of this redefinition is conceptualized by new, more upward-looking experiences, supported by knowledge located in the spiritual sciences. Within this context, organizations represent complex adaptive systems, crossing boundaries between political institutions and social advocacy to take responsibility for world macro problems.


         My thoughts regarding Harman and others are a sense that a decision to care, as illustrated by the Counseling Wheel, begins with an emphasis on the quality of work life. Through this revision, our understanding of work and everyday practice of the micro (what I do each day) and the macro (what the organization, nation, and so forth do each day) is tied to an aspect of wholeness, which includes operating from a position of body, mind, and spirit and from interdependency with all human and planetary life communities.


The outcome is a shift in the way we study questions regarding work, spirit, and communal reciprocity. This initiates ways of identifying what we do and how we do it, and focuses our attention to create patterns by interplaying an exchange among participants, within an existence of valuing people, valuing sovereignty, valuing uncertainties. I will return to this concept later in this work to illustrate that evidence of this shift toward indigenous philosophical principles is surfacing within health care, education, and community services as conditions of funding to create local and regional networks.


With the inclusion of both indigenous and non-indigenous theorists in this work, it is relevant that I insert the Counseling Wheel again at this point in our conversation. Located in the South are the words establish trust levels.


Figure 9: Counseling Wheel – 2nd Revisiting



Perhaps the difficulty to articulate this shift is a sense that time has muddied the waters of trust and thus it is difficult to see or care about creating a space for both indigenous and non-indigenous people, in terms of quality of life for all. Yet when I spend time with elders they remind me to be kind. They suggest that the Medicine Wheel Teachings are akin to an infinite fractal loop, which expands toward multiple teachings through realms seen and unseen, and which incorporate the past, present, and future. As such, our actions of kindness ensure that we create a space that heals the past and nurtures the future.


This connection to past, present, and future is a 1440o perspective of the Medicine Wheel Teachings rather than a flat perception. Within an immature context of these teachings, community relationships, actions, and power may be narrowed to a 360o diagram of the Medicine Wheel Teachings versus a multifaceted and multidirectional, 1440o perspective.


Figure 10: Depiction of 1440o Relationship and Fractal Model





During my studies, I spent time with elders to understand the multifaceted nature of the wheel. I was given instruction for each direction and told to sit with the land and to continuously dip into the meaning of the direction, the time of day associated with the direction, the activities of creation during this time of day, and my awareness of the Medicine Wheel Teachings. Upon consultation with local elders such as Isaac Day[4] (Mississauga), the teachings introduced me to the multidimensional aspects of creating community. The exchange, as with all stories and experiences, enhanced my understanding of behaviours or actions on every level. For me, the journey toward engaging these teachings involved a process for institutionalizing meaning. Through this institutionalization, I became aware of the robustness and timelessness of these teachings. I entered the space of past, present, and future. In this context, I perceived a system of caring, and instructions that guide actions and behaviours, that is, doing within a wholistic sense.


One might assume that social cultural theorist Anthony Cohen might suggest that the functional characteristic of the Medicine Wheel serves to express and extend the boundaries or first principles of the community. This is my explanation for the process. As I engaged each element of the teachings and now as I move toward understanding the Counseling Wheel, as an extension of this engagement, I witness the philosophical opportunities as considered in this chapter. In this expansion, harmony with respect to the study of being and the nature of knowledge embodies the concepts of communication, power relationships, and exchange.


My experience with community members, who utilize the various teachings of the Medicine Wheel as lessons for everyday life, is that they see the teachings as markings, similar to following landmarks, as suggested by social theorists, which guide our experiences and our ways of engaging with one another and the broader world. The lessons imitate the experience for the listener by reenacting an event, that is, externalization of the lesson. The lessons also create opportunity by the listener to internalize meaning; examples of these actions are vision quests, powwows, and other ceremonies.


Consequently, when an individual is instructed in the teachings, there is an expectation that s/he will not only hear the stories but will seek out methods to experience the meaning, as well as take time to contemplate the meaning. This expanded process begins the journey for personal connection to the shared knowledge of the community. From this connection, aboriginal order of kinship (community) defines roles, responsibilities, and rights within the forces (institution) of the circle of life. This connection is tied to the old one’s follow-up question “Does your work help others?” where the second question serves as a checklist to defining the word clean.


The depth of the Counseling Wheel to transmit ethical space draws on the principles of care and deliberate attention. Symbols associated with the teachings act as a mirror and transmit information about things hidden or just beyond our sight, either behind us, around a corner, or not yet in our presence. Those who have been on a vision quest in the woods will relate to the concept of hidden meaning and isolation. These hidden teachings are also associated with the North, which guides our actions. In this manner, actions associated with coming-to-knowing are as important as the knowing.


This sense of knowing and these teachings are timeless imperatives. I do not use the term lightly. I came across the term in the text, Built to Last, by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porrass, and in Collins’s follow-up text, Good to Great. In their research, the term implies the core principles and practices that sustain organizational livelihood. The concept of timeless imperatives represents core ideology within an organization, fostered by core values and purpose that guide decisions and inspire people beyond a motivation of just making money. These principles are deemed timeless imperatives as they stem from essential and enduring tenets that sustain the company for a long period of time.


This sense of endurance is how I perceive the teachings and ceremonies I have come to know and participate in. Through these experiences, my sense of knowing is strengthened by conversations with elders as one example of transmitting embodied wholeness. My time spent in western Canada and New Mexico with old ones introduced me to various methods of transmitting embodied wholeness. The transmission through teachings was one means to introduce a sense of time and space as linked to perfection or sacredness. From this experience, I gained an orientation to the world, in terms of in whom to place my confidence, from whom to seek counsel, to whom to go for history, and so forth. Through this worldview, scholarship and conversations with old ones established an insight into the intricacies of the inner space and connected this space to everyday practices, through language, the land, ceremony, and community experiences.


During my time in community work, I was introduced to Métis scholar Carole Leclair and through her to elders who influenced her work. One particular influence was Eugene Serre, who harvests his livelihood from the land. In her work, Leclair writes, “When Eugene Serre speaks about Moose, he speaks from thirty years following his Teacher/Trickster across rivers, valleys, and over mountains”. The act of hunting becomes more than killing a moose. It means understanding the moose, his habits, his food, his behaviour. One begins to dream, to think, and to feel like a moose. One also begins to dream, think, and feel as the gun or arrow. The framework does not stem from human origins but from all life. In this experience, Leclair illustrates that Serre learns not only how Moose lives but also how he might live in co-existence with eurocentric influences. “They teach me how I might unlearn a legacy of patriarchal attitudes”.


Alternatively, the narrowing of the space between indigenous and non-indigenous ways of being, knowing, and doing is a process that engages our capacity to understand our relationship to one another and to all creation. As a true indication of a movement toward systems of care, we begin to think of indigenous knowledge as ethical space. Through these thoughts, we open our ability to answer the question “Is your work clean?” by entering our sense of self into one of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity. In this instance, the bridging of the concepts of ethical space and spiritual space engages a dialogue to explore why and how we care.


Chapter Summary


By working my way through Chapters Three to Six, I have worked my way around the Counseling Wheel.


Figure 11: Chapters 1- 6 – Revisited Schematic




On this walk, I challenged my position as a theorist to understand a historical and contemporary timeline for indigenous and western knowledge as it moved from a period of early contact to an era of integration.


Figure 12: Schematic of Timeline



The presentation of the timelines aimed to demonstrate two points. First, indigenous knowledge has been sustained by community members, knowledge keepers, and scholars, despite the period of invisibility to western academia and society, and second, western scholars are moving toward organic, wholistic ways of seeing.


Through the exploration of western movement and indigenous knowledge advancement, I began to create an awareness of trends associated with traditional knowledge and western theory in side-by-side existence. As a consequence, it was possible to illustrate the complexity of the issues associated with indigenous and non-indigenous relationships. Responses to these issues are embedded in historical and contemporary assumptions associated with the Counseling Wheel’s attributes of fear, inferiority, and negative attitudes such as distrust, resentment, and jealousy.


 In many instances these fears inspire responses of resistance, transformation as critical organic catalyst, or new insights into systems of caring. In my assessment of these new insights, I challenge myself to develop theories that might gain from scholarship that offers instructions for ethical space and practice. Within these new insights are opportunities to understand what is changing in order to engage an open mind regarding our perceptions to care. Nevertheless, the discussion is one of embodied wholeness, in which the parts embrace aspects of diversity while carving out a shared ethical space. In the Counseling Wheel, the sacred space is wholistic and thus supports the diversity of the parts.


Perhaps it is an assumption of possibilities to suggest that the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous scholarship appears to be narrowing. Similar to the previous chapter’s findings of commonalities, the narrowing of the space between opens a pathway for indigenous knowledge as ethical space to interlope western ideologies regarding work and everyday practice. Within these findings, I aim to profile systems and organizational theory as well as traditional models of complex adaptive or organic systems. My desired outcome of these investigations is to generate an awareness of the broader context of this system of care, as understood in the Counseling Wheel as ethical space and to utilize this awareness to recognize how, in the words of Little Bear, “the value of wholeness tells a member that, if each person does his/her part, then social order will be the result; this is the collective agreement internalized by each member”.


From this analysis, I move toward a different vantage point of the wheel.


Figure 15: Chapters 7 to 10



This vantage point follows a framework where sacred knowledge is enduring knowledge by moving along the wheel through the Spirit Line between the East and the West. Located in this space are the teachings that promote change for future negotiations. Seven Generations Teachings purport a philosophy to make decisions that continue the respect and remembering of our past seven ancestors as well as establishing decisions and practices that safeguard the futures of seven generations forward.


These teachings may be regarded as part of a process of decision-making and stewardship, which articulates our responsibilities forward and is measured in generations or twenty-five-year spans, not decades. In this sense, as an aboriginal scholar I undertake the process of narrowing the gap by simply understanding my connection and responsibilities to all creation. As interpreted from Deloria, the spectrum of knowledge represented by western and indigenous knowledge thrives and is exchanged within the sacred space of this middle ground.


Approaching the Counseling Wheel through the line between vision and reason reaffirms the concept that everything is related and suggests that our diverse knowledge systems are a reflection of the universal kinship of all humans. Within the social network of kinships among community, members establish intimacy, respect, and obligation as the social framework for everyday life. The network extends this kinship to our past, present, and future. This perspective of kinship is another expression of wholeness.

[1] Anataras is a Mohawk traditional teacher from Tyendinaga Territory. His English name is Alan Brant. I met Anataras through his life partner, Kelly Stanhope the assistant coordinator of Aboriginal Services for Loyalist College in Belleville Ontario. Belleville is located a short distance west of the lands now known as Tyendinaga Reservation. Tyendinaga Territory became the territory of Mohawk people whose ancestral homeland was the Mohawk River Valley of present day New York State. On the 22nd of May 1784, Captain John Deserontyon and about 20 families arrived here on the shores of the Bay of Quinte. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte have been here ever since. Both communities are relevant to me as my relations continue to live slightly west of Belleville and off-reserve of Tyendinaga.

[2] During Spring of 2006, members of the Fort Erie and Niagara Friendship Center provided traditional teachings and cultural exchange to members of the IOGKF international karate. During these sessions, I was able to spend time with Mr. Parker, Seneca Hawk Clan. Through our conversations and the planned activities of the IOGKF events, Mr. Parker provided instruction on the wampum and other teachings. I consider Mr. Parker a vital connection to my heritage.

[3] The first image is a depiction of the Medicine Wheel and one association of the relationship of colours of the wheel, as shared by Elders. The image is overlaid by the 1440 degree spiral, often associated with the image of the atom. The overlay represents the multiple movements and ways of interpreting the teachings of the wheel. Alongside this image is a presentation of a Fractal Loop ( which represents a mathematical calculation and natural representation of similar ways of knowing and interpreting multiple relationships at the micro and macro dimensions as explanation of the multidimensional aspects of the Medicine Wheel Teachings.

In his work, Kevin FitzMaurice used a similar conceptual analysis of chaos theory to explain the Counseling Wheel and the complexities and infinite possibilities located within this indigenous philosophical framework (2005:42-50). In his section entitled “Introduction: Power in a World of Finite and Infinite Energies” he explores the physical, spiritual, and rational being as tied together as an integrated condition of creation.

[4] Isaac Day, Ojibwa Healer, was born in the Serpent River First Nation and was raised in a traditional fashion by his Grandfather. Other traditionalists who appeared throughout his life, such as Dan Pine and Joe Eagle Elk, continued to intrigue Isaac and offered additional inspiration to him in his helping role. Today, Isaac helps others to regain and retain their spiritual inner being. He uses his spiritual insights and gift of seeing to heal the mind, body, and the spirit. Isaac states, "Of the many ceremonies that I am capable of doing, I prize the one that helps others to be able to find themselves so they can help themselves”. Isaac presently lives near Ohsweken.



Continue to Next Chapters


Chapters 1-2 Chapters 3-4 Chapters 5-6 Terms
Chapters 7-8 Chapters 9-10 Glossary Sandi's Book - Introduction
Bibliography Appendix Afterword  



© 2020 M Louise Ripley