Sandi’s Book: Teaching Indigenous Concepts of

“Clean Work” to Western Business Thought

Chapters 7 and 8

7      Kanôké - to live somewhere as a natural habitat


I had traveled to New Mexico with a woman I had only met two weeks earlier. However, my husband and I thought it was important for me to go and meet Stephen, a Hopi healer. I was told that I needed to call Stephen first and he would decide if he wanted me to come. I had to arrange a time to call him, as he needed to go to a friend’s house for the call. With some hesitation I called, half expecting him to turn me away. Instead, he laughed and quietly said, “I’ve been waiting for you to call”.


When I arrived in New Mexico, I was driven to a house at the top of the mountain range. I noticed the rock ledge jutting out from the escarpment as soon as I stepped out of the car. It appeared as a hand extended from the rock, palm up, as if waiting to give or receive something. I knew I would have to sit on this ledge and suspend myself across the valley below. I chuckled to myself at the thought of my bravery and knew it was likely to be shorted lived, once I began to assess the dangers.


I was greeted by Stephen’s helpers and instructed that Stephen would not meet with me for a couple of days. In the meantime, I was to contemplate beginning a fast. As part of this plan, I was to write down my fears and put these aside. If needed, I was to meditate/pray for help on setting aside these emotional holds that might interfere with my journey.


I had three fears. The first, I was afraid of getting bitten by a rattle snake. The likelihood of getting bitten was increased by our location but still it seemed like a childish fear, primal and not quite sure of its origins. The second, I was afraid of having a heart attack. I had been ill a long time and thought I might have a heart attack due to a weak body. Finally, I was afraid Stephen would send me home and not work with me because I could not put aside my first two fears.


Again, childish, I know. With paper and pen in hand, I went out into the New Mexico desert-mountains to contemplate the likelihood of going home. After a day or two of quiet contemplation, I decided to visit the ledge I had noticed on my arrival. The landing was actually wider than it looked from a distance. With some effort, I could slide down the escarpment wall and reach my chosen mediation spot. The view was spectacular and the idea of sitting suspended from the mountain over the valley was exciting. I easily was motivated to lower myself to its destination.


After several minutes, maybe an hour, I decided to climb back up. Now I realized that I had lowered myself about 15 feet down from the top of the mountain, where the house sat. I also realized that to climb back up, I needed to place my hands in cracks and crevasses to move along the face of the mountain without falling. Slowly and reluctantly, I stuck my fingertips in the cracks and inched my way to the top. After about 20 minutes, I arrived safely and feeling somewhat smug at defying the snakes, I sat down on a rock to contemplate my fears.


Soon, I realized that I hadn’t addressed my fear; I had only avoided it. As I shifted on the rock, my pen rolled off my lap and into a pit about an arm’s length deep. Looking into the hole, I realized that the side of the pit extended farther than it was wide at the top. Yes, the hole was a great spot for snakes to escape the hot sun, while still collecting the heat of the day.


Whether or not it was true, I thought it was a test. Was I willing to put my fear aside and reach into the hole for the pen? It was just a pen, wasn’t it? It could stay there, could it not? All the answers did not remove the knowledge that the pen represented my fear and I needed to grasp it and remove it. I am not sure how long I sat and stared at the pen. I had calculated that the hole was deep enough that I needed to place my whole arm and perhaps my shoulder, into its opening. There wasn’t any way that I could look into the hole and reach into the hole at the same time. I would be blind to any movement from the sides of the hole and likely be bitten, if a snake was resting along the sides.


After a much longer time, I heard a voice ask, “What are you afraid of, exactly?” There was no one around but I answered the voice. I guess I am afraid that I’ll be bitten and die. Suddenly, I realized I had come to see a healer. Logical deductions ran through my head, Okay, if I get bitten, they will take me to the hospital and I will be okay. Or, if I get bitten, Stephen will help me and I will be okay. Or, well if I get bitten and Stephen cannot help me then my timing of death is now and that is the reality of why I came. I was convinced. I was going for the pen regardless of whether or not I would be bitten by a snake. I had been sitting on the ground beside the hole. I had placed my note pad next to my knee, while I had contemplated the state of my dilemma.


I was ready. As I went to stand up, I placed my hand on the note pad. Something was sitting on the pad. It was the PEN! I looked down the hole and sure enough, it wasn’t there. It was on the pad.


As I got up, I heard a voice say to me, “Come inside, you are ready now!” Upon entering the house, a sign was visible on the wall. It read, “When I address my fears, it becomes less and less important that I am afraid”. Entering the living room, I met Stephen to begin our work.



Returning to the center of the Counseling Wheel with this chapter, I guide the reader to navigate the patterns of my thoughts as I move between the details of everyday life and the grander explorations of all creation. In the personal story shared above, I begin to unfold who I am and how I see and act within the world. These insights are only a snapshot of how I navigate the world around me and how I continuously choose to care. And you should know that sometimes, I do not even know what I have pulled to the surface or how to interpret what is in the can. The snapshots into my life experiences are similar to the contents of the tin can; depending on what you pull up, you may find a different expression. However, the tin can is reliant on the traditional practice, as represented by the bear fat. Through the relationship between the tin can and the bear fat, I hope to harvest the stuff that sticks.


When the bear fat is thin, it is harder to pull up deep and hidden contents. When the bear fat is thick, the volume which is pulled up is entangled within itself and sometimes it takes a long time to fully appreciate what has been discovered or what has been lost. When I speak of the reasons to care and the barriers that prevent us from caring, I need to address fear as a personal impediment to one’s choice to care or not care. Within the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term, fear is described as “hesitation to do”. This hesitation is often associated with emotional dread, anxiety over one’s safety, annoyance, or sense of impending harm. The description, hesitation to do is a suitable choice of words in the context of the question “Is your work clean?” Within a tin can bear fat analysis, the method of coming into knowledge is one of experience and engaged learning. When I began this document I suggested my work is about asking questions or in the tin can bear fat analysis, continuously dipping the can. From these questions, I create a passion to care that stems from an awareness of attributes that foster an environment where it is safe to care. One’s motivation to continue to act in the context of this environment requires a space without barriers.


The option to do or not do may be regarded by some as the notion of autonomy. Within this interpretation, expressions of noninterference or nonintervention might defend a personal experiential knowledge over prescriptive notions of doing and not doing. The decision to do or not do remains a personal conviction rather than a socially constructed dictum. Consequently, answering the question “Is your work clean?” begins to unravel an indigenous philosophy of ethical space, where ethical space assumes attributes of responsibility for oneself and then for others.


As with my experience in New Mexico, returning to the center of the Counseling Wheel assumes from this definition of doing, a perspective of indigenous knowledge where attributes, structures, and identities are no longer divided along lines that claim “if you are not this, then you are that”. Instead, the claim becomes “I am this but I am also that” because the point upon which I separate myself from Other is the point that also connects me to Other. The creation and continuance of wholeness requires these lines to be fluid. The fluidity is mirrored for me through the expanding universe that has no edges, only the space that has been created and the space yet to be created. The Counseling Wheel teachings create an understanding of vision, time, reason, and movement as an expansion of this wholistic view. These understandings embody wholeness as expressions of indigenous knowledge, and in turn demonstrate an approach to create and sustain indigenous knowledge as an ongoing process, one that is reciprocal and cyclical.


The movement in this chapter back to the center of the wheel signifies that as a consequence, my understanding of ethical requires a personal connection to sacred space. And as a matter of humility, these principles continue through universal laws and creation, whether I am present or not. The act of remembering a wholistic view is an act to not ignore these principles but to engage their agency as everyday practice. So when I bridge these thoughts, for example, “What’s in the can?” to contemporary workplace theory, what do I get?


Within side-by-side existence, which aims to carve out ethical space, these actions stem from an understanding that the lines that hook two worldviews together are fluid. The span between the space and time relationship, which shapes our collective past, present, and futures is less tangible than we think. Similar to my experience with the pen and the snake pit, we need to challenge what we think we see, know, feel, and do, so we are open to the possibilities of intangible response.


Mindful efforts to create a shared space require movement within both worldviews to ensure continuity to our relationships. A eurocentric positioning does not dominate the relationship. The relationship to all creation defines indigenous knowledge and in turn, transcends expressions of indigenous thought and practice. The relationship facilitates personal responsibility to the community and individual livelihood. As argued by Winona LaDuke, responsibility resides within an aboriginal belief that to be sustainable, the practices of society and cultures have to obey natural law.


LaDuke provides five characteristics that separate the practices of industrial worldview from native worldviews. Chief among these is the first characteristic which is to see native law as preeminent, or within a wholistic view, demonstrating excellence through balance, which is modeled by the second characteristic, cyclical structures. Note, it is within this perception that I am able to nurture a sense of time and space that challenges our sensitivity. In cyclical structures, space and time relationships bend and shift rather than flow linearly to an end destination. Consequently, LaDuke’s characterization supports my thoughts regarding the process to continuously look and look again.


Her position regarding indigenous peoples’ ability to see the interconnectedness of resources and sustainability is one transferable to the creation of ethical space. Specifically,  LaDuke shares personal and case study knowledge that demonstrates traditional ecological knowledge as an essential competency for the future. Her arguments call for a shift in perceptions that integrate cultural traditions with practices as a means for ensuring community sustainability. LaDuke provides confirmation that traditional knowledge keepers are deep reserves of expertise, which promote change, adaptability, and resilience.


During my studies, I became involved in community research and local initiatives sponsored by aboriginal organizations. My observation during these activities was an appreciation that best practices, currently operating as community development initiatives, seemed void of the capacities, customs, and local knowledge held by indigenous communities. Despite all our scholastic claims to include and value traditional knowledge, it appeared as though most efforts by the state for community development operated outside the indicators of wellbeing and social exchange that exist within an indigenous community as shared knowledge and traditional practices. Consequently, the complexity of these issues has failed to address issues of community sustainability and livelihood.


 Perhaps it was the timing of my involvement or a narrowly harvested arena, meaning I had yet to discover fully functioning communities who employed models of community development that navigated the philosophical differences of western and indigenous ideologies. In fairness, this work struggles as well to articulate how to construct everyday practices that bridge the differences regarding wellbeing and social exchange as illustrated by Leroy Little Bear:


Table 2: Philosophical Differences




Space is more important than time

Time is more important than space

Cyclical view of world (constant motion)

Linear view of world

Verb-rich language (action oriented)

Content based

Dichotomies are rare in language

Dichotomies (good/bad) reinforce universalism

Creation is continuity

Creation is static

Context specific


Spider web of relations:
      interconnected/ balance

Non-interference unto others

Universalism justifies interference

Depend on each other’s truth to create the whole

Truth is objective and must be striven for

Collective decision-making

Hierarchical social order (only one truth)

Education through storytelling, actual experience

Objective body of knowledge (oxymoron)

Diversity is the norm (law is the culture)

Social control ensures minimal diversity



Within my community development initiatives, everyone involved acknowledged that, as Little Bear expresses it, “There are always other ways of interpreting the world”. Within a contemporary context, both sides of the chart are manifested in day-to-day interactions. Consequently, Battiste and Henderson caution that opportunities to include indigenous knowledge and models may be merely symbolic gestures of inclusion that serve as a means of repressing community sovereignty. The models are rarely understood by those agreeing to their implementation and only suggest change rather than creating capacity and capability for change. Instead, change that implies an alternative vision such as techniques of interloping, or acting as critical organic catalyst applies a range of strategies and tactics that infiltrate dominant power relations and institutions.


My effort to work together in equity means I must constantly return to indigenous wellbeing and models of knowledge that strengthen the philosophies of aboriginal people while I seek the interconnection to non-indigenous worldviews as an extension of a system of caring that resides at the core of all relationships. This process requires the testing of boundaries or structures, both seen and unseen. The process also requires a personal competency to envision the fluidity of the lines between where indigenous and non-indigenous ideas, concepts, and thoughts begin and end. Sometimes these distinctions are not clear, while at other times they are quite clear. As such, political and socio-economic responsibilities to these relationships must be taken up again and again to foster relevant and innovative resolutions to side-by-side existence. The solutions and community development strategies are not a “one package fixes all” endeavour. These initiatives are not a “one time fixes all” obligation.


In western knowledge I discovered foundations for the concept to care which are nurtured through ceremonies and traditional practices. I delved into resources regarding hetero-economic behaviours, in particular the notions of commitment and integrity. Integrity is one of the Seven Grandfather/Mother Teachings shared by Anishnaabe Elders. During camp, youth were introduced to Seven Grandfather Teachings through stories and songs that provided a value system. Each youth was assigned one value to safeguard and to share throughout the summer, empowering them to live their lives in a good way. In analyzing their progress, I felt a humanistic view required attention to indigenous knowledge if we were to pinpoint the intersecting attributes of western and indigenous frameworks. From this exploration, I gleaned a sense of what is hidden below the water. From this sense-making, I asked the question “How does the concept of wholism inspire us to care?” In my efforts to link the concepts of the Counseling Wheel, philosophical principles of caring eyes, caring ears, caring mind, and caring behaviours, to humanistic principles, I came across this quote from Siemthlut Michelle Washington:


 “Our ancestors were not greedy people; they worked together to get things done so others might be helped Tut hoos sum (without expecting anything in return)”.



From this, I decided that concepts of caring within an indigenous philosophy are tied to our ancestral ways of knowing and being. Concepts of caring or not caring also tend to be tied to terms of consequences and our responsibilities to these consequences. Darcy Rheault states, “Teachings not only influence personality, society, religion, action, and ethics, they also set out the proper context for a person to live in. Teachings give life meaning”. Thus the instructions, as original lessons to care, are a prescription for a person’s daily life. From within an indigenous philosophy of care, these vehicles form our ideas, behaviours, values, and philosophies that influence our identity and our relations with family, community, and society.


Regarding non-indigenous philosophies and in particular humanistic methodologies, I came across this quote from Elias and Merriam as documented by Brockett:


 “Rooted in the idea that ‘human beings are capable of making significant personal choices within the constraints imposed by heredity, personal history, and environment’ are principles of humanist philosophy [which] stress the importance of the individual and specific human needs”.


Thus, my assessment of whether one selects to care, motivated by indigenous or non-indigenous philosophies, is an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness between our principles, which influence the possible outcomes of our side-by-side existence. Specifically, within the ethical space that we carve together we establish spaces for autonomy and self-actualization.


Lately, western organizational theorists have introduced concepts of possibilities as an outcome of envisioning this interconnectedness to decisions and behaviours. They attribute these behaviours to wholistic thinking. These behaviours are at the core of indigenous thought as aboriginal thinkers have held these attributes as the guiding principles for our worldview. By locating this chapter in the center of the space to care, I am able to look out at the other directions and to ask myself, “How do we envision the meeting spaces associated with establishing this interconnectedness while still maintaining opportunities for autonomy and collectivism?”


From the center, I turn and face the East, South, West, and North. Each direction speaks to the intention of peace, healing, spiritual growth, and unity, as represented by the images that surround the wheel. The act of turning from the center is similar to an instruction I received from a colleague, Dan Longboat, with regard to the Thanksgiving Address. I was on my way to take part in a fall fast. As I was preparing to leave, Dan asked if I knew the significance of the Thanksgiving Address, “Ohonton Karihwate:kwn Kanonhwaraton:sera”. In the past, I had only heard the address as a prayer or opening address spoken somewhat from memory. Instead, Longboat advised that I speak the text with intention to greet each element as though I cared. He advised that when I spoke to Earth, Sun, Moon, and all the other beings, I should greet these beings as if they were relatives at a family reunion. The outcome of this lesson was a true exchange and an awareness of the knowledge held by our Elder Brothers and Sisters of Creation. Within this intention, I was stepping into the sacred space with a sense of abandoning false or limiting ways of being, knowing, and doing. As a consequence of Dan’s instructions, when I greeted Trees they returned my greeting and confirmed a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness.


This concept of wholeness is the core principle for exchange within a contemporary world. As such, these wholistic models inspire new ways of being, knowing, and doing. The line between humanistic and indigenous ways moves toward a shared space which fosters our capacity for diversity, optimization, cooperation, commitment, integrity, love, kindness, patience, self-regulation, creativity, connectedness, interdependency, and collectivism.


Our ability to navigate balance between autonomy and collectivism, or indigenous and non-indigenous diversity within a context of ethical space means negotiating the socio-cultural relations and structures that reflect the duality imposed by non-aboriginal culture upon aboriginal communities. The dismantling of these barriers requires expressions of cultural and historical processes and systems, as understood by the people from both worldviews. In side-by-side community networks, we must make room for the concrete representation of many ideas, values, concepts, and hopes that materialize. As individuals we might choose to care, but what about the government and institutional barriers? Do government or state bodies care?


Examples of power barriers to indigenous knowledge as ethical space, in terms of the question “Is your work clean?” surface as social-economic initiatives, which fail to embrace traditional responses to community sustainability. As David Newhouse argues, “Power is concentrated in the hands of experts, economists, demographers – institutions such as the United Nations, who were deemed to have the moral, professional, or legal authority to name subjects, and to advance strategies”. In this argument, the power resides with non-locals to determine what works and what does not work. Continuing his case, Newhouse suggests community development processes seek to transform indigenous ways to the modern, setting off a chain of events that negate the potential for local-centered advocacy for indigenous managed livelihoods with distinct cultural identities. In this example, barriers arise when community development agents do not interpret doing from within an ethical intention or invention and therefore the initiatives may not work.


In the center of the Counseling Wheel, one might assume this space is absent of the state-nation-cultural associations of ethics. Yet, it is difficult to carve out a space within a sacred context without also engaging the structures that shape our interpretations and alliances. These influences are part of the flow between the source of information such as text and teachings, and the individual and the group’s validation, which in turn shape an individual’s response to the text. How does one step outside of the structures and sources of influence, as depicted within these models of exchange? For me the answer resides in the component of the Counseling Wheel, which scribes the words, Care Free. Some contexts of the wheel express these words as Don’t Care, but in this instance, I believe the context is Care Free. Similar to the story at the beginning of this chapter, there is a moment when engaging the sacred to carve out ethical space means we must select to be care free, to go with the flow rather than trying to apply meaning to everything we see or do not see. In these situations, maintains Lyons, “The primary law of Indian government is the spiritual law. Spirituality is the highest form of politics”.


My novice understanding as an angler requires that I seek out those who have created a strategy that draws upon indigenous notions of institutions, such as elders, the land, spirit, and relationships. Through their instruction, an ethical space is created that resides outside of organizations of state. These are the interpretations of power from an ethical space, which strategically serve to influence a specific and historical context for the community.


As a futurist prediction of indigenous theory, the viability for local knowledge to engage in activities that allow community members to contribute in meaningful ways is an assessment of the viability of spiritually centered ethical practice. Within my assessment of the movement toward this definition for ethical space, I recognize models that contribute to preserving the local relationships and resources, such as the environment. The relevance of this analysis is a potential launching point for community discussions, to understand how the concept of doing fits into our everyday work practices. These value systems are grounded by spiritual and natural laws that have always provided the instruction for how to live and sustain our communities.


Within this context of collective ways of being, indigenous knowledge resources such as elders, community activists, and scholars utilize strategies that shift the power away from non-spirit-based institutions toward a more wholistic view. Alternatively, clean work involves celebrating indigenous ways of being, knowing, and doing, regardless of dictated or associated state powers. Although political elements must be considered for day-to-day practice, the inclusion of teachings represents timeless ways of institutionalizing indigenous theories and practices. Again, the concept of timelessness means we are engaged in the transmission of indigenous ways for generations to come. Perhaps a compelling reason for wading in to care is what Henderson terms the image of poverty in aboriginal communities that conceals their capacity to promote partnerships, institutionalize local change, and support community-led initiatives.


The implied capital imbalance of power between western and indigenous knowledge systems and in turn communities, creates an unequal playing field. In this field, perceived impoverished participants are battling not just the inequities of wealth but also institutional agency associated with health, justice, sovereignty, and personal safety. The challenge, according to de Soto, is to move toward an integrated framework that allows emerging, evolving, and excluded communities to operate alongside existing and prosperous economic exchange mechanisms. This argues a position for survival linked to spiritual values, and provides principles of respect and balance that challenge current western models that promote competition and accumulation. Historical practices and contemporary power structures limit our ability as a society, a whole society, not just non-indigenous or indigenous.


As the waters flow into one another, my can pulls up entangled contents that hint at a concept of embodied wholeness. Thus, we return to the discussion of power, intention, and the issues that separate and also bind our multiple worldviews. Aboriginal communities’ abilities and contributions to the broader economic market, utilizing traditional-spiritual knowledge, have been pushed aside, following the post-fur-trade experience. When I dip the can into the waters, again and again, I encounter western institutional and interpretative systems contributing to ongoing barriers that perpetuate a welfare state for aboriginal people.


Moving into new waters, I dip my can and I encounter power shifts, as indigenous scholarship articulates competencies that create resistance and potential counter attack. Accordingly, the strategies are instruments for creating advocacy, influence, and community strength. To accept this challenge, existing and prosperous side-by-side relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge systems must acknowledge the historical and potentially hidden reality of aboriginal worldviews as systems requiring generosity, and embrace this reality as a potential resource for tackling issues of economic development.


The advantages of traditional ways are beliefs and practices that demonstrate indigenous knowledge as a catalyst for carving out ethical space. Within this space, western and indigenous scholars begin to articulate the relevance of traditional knowledge to everyday practice. Mark Phillips[1] made relevant this perspective at the Traditional Teachings for Native Studies, November 2003. Mark shares that throughout the Stages of Life, the individual learns, grows, becomes, acts, rests, and so forth. All that we do is in an effort to develop a personal way of knowing. Phillips states that this journey enables the individual to develop knowledge and strength, which flows over to the family, community, and all creation. This personal journey is at the core of indigenous knowledge systems.


This balanced process begins with creation stories and teachings. For example, within the synchronicity of the Anishnaabe Creation Story, we witness and acknowledge a system of exchange. The creation story enables Anishnaabe people to locate their relationship to all creation, working from the center circle to the outer edge, rotating clockwise from this center. The interconnectedness and interdependency of the elements are akin to a root system, which anchors the philosophy of Anishnaabe people at several points along the exchange.


The Counseling Wheel stems from these teachings. The layers of understanding within the wheel and other teachings are textual contributions that shape this work. As a consequence I embrace a position to say that carving out an ethical or sacred space is defined by two elements: 1) Spirit – our connection to all creation and our alignment of our original instructions as people to this connection, and 2) Fasting – our understanding of what we as individuals need to give up to extend our connections to all creation and to remind us of our instructions, and our understanding of what we need to do as a community to support individuals who enter this quest. Within this chapter, my location at the center of the Counseling Wheel is a return to both of these elements.


An understanding of the Counseling Wheel provides personal competency to wander and wonder with a good mind. I have the reference to articulate and sustain truth. I develop the capabilities to plant, sow, and nurture livelihoods, and I move toward the knowledge to act and create relationships that foster the next cycle of community resources. All of these are sustained by the few old ones, who sit with wisdom to guide the interconnectedness required at all of these stages. In this sense, indigenous knowledge as ethical space sustains our ways of knowing and doing from original creation to contemporary times.


Debra McGreggor has stated at a Métis Women’s Conference, “If you seek indigenous knowledge, go sit with the Trees, Rocks, Water, all Creation; these are our elders”. The old ones, people, and all creation, have kept this knowledge as living knowledge. Our responsibility is to figure out how to bring this knowledge to everyday practice.


Indigenous scholar Gregory Cajete argues that modern institutions invest in the maintenance of old cosmology, which orients a person toward consumerism, competition, rationalism, detachment, individualism, and narcissism. In contrast, native science embodies the natural system, characterized by diversity, optimization, cooperation, self-regulation, change, creativity, connectedness, and niches or gifted pockets of unique knowledge. Cajete’s analysis of indigenous knowledge suggests a system where everything is interdependent and moved by creative energy. The outcome of this philosophy is a worldview that explores our essential relationships and responsibilities based upon direct experience, interconnectedness, relationships, wholism, quality, and value associated with one’s orientation to the whole, as depicted by traditional teachings illustrating respect, balance, introspection, and change.


         In dipping my can into the theories of institutionalization, I assess that these theories have undermined indigenous traditions and created welfare status within our communities, hindering the contributions of our people. Alternatively, traditional knowledge systems contribute to what Obomsawin calls, “balanced, complementary, and liberating development of the whole person, in a dynamic family and community context. [The incorporation of traditional practices and knowledge systems fosters] principles of wholism, integration, respect for the spiritual and natural world order, and balance. On an individual scale, it encompasses total preparation of the total person for living a total life”.


         I have experienced the power of traditional institutionalism during my time as a human resource strategist. One instance involved sharing my thoughts regarding my philosophy toward ethical space and interconnectedness with a mentor, who was a business unit manager for a large steel company. As background, the conversation began when our organization was experiencing significant upheaval as we implemented a work-restructuring policy. The outcome of this policy was a shift toward a smaller workforce. Although the company undertook compassionate and responsible actions to oversee the workforce changes, many people, who would continue as part of the new organization, were frustrated and saddened by the proposed outcomes. In conversation, we acknowledged that on the surface employees understood their functional activities, but the interdependencies of the organization were not as clear. I also thought it was important to expand this interdependency to the four elements, earth, fire, air, and water, which contributed to the creation of steel. The earth was represented by the coal, the fire by the furnace, the air by the oxygen injected into the furnace and casting process, and the water by the introduction of it within the cycle to cool the finished slabs or rolls.


The resulting outcome of our conversation was a local initiative that embraced the talents, gifts, and intuitive relationships along the steelmaking process. The employees within this process found coherence, innovation, reference, and intention to their work environment. More important, they found reason, rooted together as a life force connecting them to one another and to the product they called steel.


The inclusion of the story seeks to illustrate the potential of ethical space as interloper into western institutions through the inclusion of traditional perspectives to act as critical organic catalyst. Examples of interloping indigenous knowledge into non-indigenous community initiatives have demonstrated some benefit within certain communities. Martha Johnson offers an example through her statement, “During the past decade, traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) has been recognized among the western scientific community for its value to contemporary environmental management”. An outcome of the pilot project demonstrated that TEK and western knowledge, collectively, offer processes and methods of determining the state of the environment. Johnson explains that the traditional environmental knowledge of the Dene peoples relates to the environment to gauge changes grounded by spiritually based moral codes or ethics that govern the interaction among the human, natural, and spiritual worlds. The interactions begin with an understanding of the land as kin, as living organism, and as an interdependent power. The Dene communities interact with the environment and its associated changes, as one would react to a relative who might require care, support, and moderation.


         Astutely, Johnson does caution about the difficulty of reconciling two profoundly different worldviews, in order to build collaborative and TEK based solutions. She shares that it is difficult to translate one knowledge system into another. The power dynamics of western management regimes prevent TEK-led interventions. As a consequence co-management systems represent the most widespread attempt to integrate TEK and western science in Northern Canada. Her article serves as a reminder that local understandings about doing recognize that TEK is a valuable resource for assessing the social and environmental impacts of development projects and environmental change.


I believe actions associated with interloping are made relevant if they originate from a mindset that promotes a framework inclusive of traditional practices, ceremonies, and stories. The mindset is located in the context of caring eyes, caring ears, caring mind, and caring actions. Within this context, community development and economic development are challenged to transform social institutions and structures that perpetuate attitudes and values damaging to native ways of knowing and being.


         As I begin to formulate my answer to the question “Is your work clean?” I sense that at the core of indigenous knowledge – textual experience like dreams, teachings, and literature – meaning is nurtured through both an inner and an outer relationship between the individual and the larger whole.


Jean Guy Goulet presents a view regarding responsibility for and ways of coming into one’s knowledge. According to Goulet’s observation of the worldview of the Dene Tha peoples, indigenous knowledge is not a commodity to be objectified through instruction but rather an expertise personally absorbed through observation and imitation. In this scenario, learning comes from direct experience and perception, not through the mediation of thought or conscious planning. Power represents one’s ability to accomplish choices rather than power over another’s actions. This stance guides personal knowledge over any other kind of knowledge as a privileged and desired outcome. The implications denote that the inherent right of individuals is to govern themselves freely and independently. This practice is within the Medicine Wheel Traditions and is the foundation for indigenous reason. It also is in the teachings of the West.


         Behaviours and actions associated with understanding the world through an indigenous knowledge system are gained as people advance along the continuum of life. As organic catalyst, ethical space is the outcome of a dynamic, interactive, and reflective process, which involves individuals, social groups, and nature. In this context, the creation of ethical space means entering into relationships with spirits of knowledge, with plants and animals, with beings that animate dreams and visions, and with the spirit of the people, and the community. The outcomes of this process are obligations and responsibilities for those who share and who receive. Thus the exchange requires attention to listening, watching, experiencing, apprenticing, creating space or silence, and entering into knowledge as if knowledge is a living thing.


Chapter Summary


Perhaps by building a case for the concept to care, as a response to the question “Is your work clean?” we begin to engage in deeper relationships. However, we also open ourselves to potential hazards and risks. As with the personal story regarding my pen and the snake pit, some risks are hard to see, and our attempts to address them may be as lame as my attempt to conquer my fear of scaling the walls of the cliff. I did not address my fears; I only scaled around them.


 Thus, the creation of ethical space is a conscious and deliberate engagement of one’s fears and one’s decision of whether or not to care. Within my exploration of socio-political or economic systems, I uncovered awareness within both indigenous and non-indigenous theory to expand our sense of these fields with a desire to care. From these systems, I argue that indigenous knowledge, through traditional knowledge, teachings, and ceremonies offers an alternative power relationship and a higher level of community wellbeing. In this manner, if we think about indigenous knowledge as a catalyst for ethical space, it is possible to operate as a dynamic whole.


Within individual versus communal experience, the inclusion of Goulet’s analysis of the Dene Tha peoples provided clarification regarding the macro-micro relationships. Again the macro-micro examples demonstrate the complexity of the issues associated with a side-by-side relationship within this ethical space. In the context presented in this chapter, this relationship is one not prescriptive in nature but fostered by behaviours and connections to the community.


As I sit in the space at the center of the Counseling Wheel, I recognize the safety this position affords me as a theorist. Without challenge, I am able to navigate the waters of both indigenous and non-indigenous theory to harvest opportunities and nurture a concept of ethical space. In economic, community, organization, or workplace development, these concepts are harder to navigate, much like the fast waters of a raging river. Within this environment, my tin can is more likely to bounce along the bed of the river, making my efforts to harvest its contents into the can a much more difficult process. This is a message to heed so that I continue this exploration with humility and continue to anchor my journey through the Counseling Wheel and other traditional teachings.

[1] Mark Philips graduated from Trent University’s Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Program. He is an Anishnaabe Traditional Teacher and Counselor.


8      Kitsa ýhôs- to catch fish




Figure 13: Daily Mail by Robert Gary Miller (Mohawk) gifted to my family[1]


From the time I remember my grandfather he was always reaching into his pocket for tobacco. He carried a pack of Daily Mail and he could roll a cigarette with one hand, while he steadied the steering wheel with the other. Mohawk artist, Robert Gary Miller was our neighbour and he captured my grandfather in motion and in story.


It wasn’t until later in life that I understood why my grandfather carried loose tobacco. I always assumed that he could not afford cigarettes but when I could afford them for him, he insisted on the loose stuff.


He would tell tales about himself and “old Joe Brant”, as he called him, so I might have a timeline to the stories. The tales included working on farms as hired hands and training horses. I could not validate these stories. Our neighbour Gary would listen and nod. He seemed to accept the stories without question. During one of these sessions, Gary developed the sketches, which morphed onto canvas. When Gary gave the painting to my brother, he said we now have our legacy documented. “I have painted an Indian and don’t let anyone tell you differently”.


In the painting my grandfather’s eyes appear blue but I remember them as more the colour of a storm cloud, a violet-gray or sometimes blue-brown. The colour seemed to change over time.


 My grandfather drove taxi for most of his life. So it is no wonder that when I am on the road and need a reminder to be aware, I smell one of his rolled-up smokes. I always turn to the passenger seat and say, “Hi Pa. Thanks for coming with me”.


Loose tobacco, thanksgiving, love, ancestors, and new generations, hmmm, no need to wonder anymore why my grandfather carried this sacred medicine!


Painting by R. Gary Miller[2] in 1987


Breaking new ground is a difficult task, whether setting new tracks in heavy fresh snow or constituting change within established powers, ideas, and practices. I have described aboriginal peoples’ roles in this document as community innovators and futurists. I do not use the terminology lightly. My intention with this language is to recognize our connections to the past, present, and future, and to present expressions of indigenous knowledge systems as wholistic and dynamic. Thus, I return to the East to explore a futurist perception as an indigenous theorist. In the East, I recall the teachings associated with my fast, to regard this ceremony as an opportunity for renewal, rebirth, and revision. The language serves to remind us that within our communities, we have prophets. These people are not just the old ones; we are birthing new prophets, children who are born with their eyes open.


As someone who has lived a half century, I acknowledge a responsibility to the East and to new generations of indigenous students and family members. I engage a duty to encourage their voices and their ways of seeing. When my four year old grandniece asks me, “Why is the woman planting seeds in our garden?” I do not turn around and ask, “What woman?” when I do not see one. I ask her to describe the woman, what she is doing and if she knows whether the woman is helping us with good intentions. And she tells me what she knows. These lessons are the insights to our community innovations and futures. As mentioned in the introductory pages and in my recollection of my 18 days in ceremony, my gift to this process is to cast light, to hold up the tin can and ask, “What do you see?” just as I ask my grandniece.


Starting again, I return to an introduction of myself and my family. I left the details of this introduction until this chapter, so I might create unity between the uncovering of specific lessons gained through text and story and the analogy of the angler, who sits in quiet contemplation of her role and her sense of self as one who is skilled in catching fish. In the first instance, I need to bring all the tools and test the waters to figure out how to fish. Only after successful catches might I be recognized for my ability as one who harvests fish. Now, it is time to hold up my catch for scrutiny.


My mother tells me that we are Hawk Clan. I believe this explains why I am comfortable with solitude while embracing lifelong relationships with a partner, family, friends, and colleagues. I have since discovered my clan’s duty to the community as messenger and strategist. In the text, In the Words of Elders, Twylah Hurd Nitsch (Seneca) expands my understanding of our clan. She states Hawk Clan people bring pride in what we do and teach the importance of Feather Cleansing.


Interestingly, I believe my passion for understanding the question “Is your work clean?” is grounded by these duties. My interest to explore creation stories and prophecies fits Nitsch’s understanding of Seneca peoples as philosophers of ancient wisdom. Within this context, I wish to share my insights, my vision, and my lessons gained from ceremony and to bring them into a context relevant to community practice.


My name, Nika'aa këtëöwítha' yakôkwe, links me to my mother, her nation, and the responsibilities associated with our clan and my gifts, received from the Creator. My name is linked to the Morning Star, Venus, and with her female duties similar to the earth and the moon, responsibilities associated with life, creation, and care giving. Venus rotates slowly on her axis with the poles at her East and West, an alternative direction to the earth. She is known for her brightness and highly reflective powers.


I am reminded by the Thanksgiving Address, Ohonton Karihwate:kwn Kanonhwaraton:sera, that people know the names of stars and the messages that they bring of future happenings. We are reminded that star’s light started its journey long before we see it and therefore we are reminded of our connection to the past and our responsibility to the future. This linkage is bound by an understanding of universal laws that govern stellar relationships over tens of thousands of years, such as changes to the alignment of earth’s northern pole to the North Star, and they set down teachings for how to continue as a people.


         An excerpt from a book by John C. Mohawk (Seneca), Iroquois Creation Story, Myth and Earth Grasper, explains Skyholder’s instruction for Morning: 
“I am not satisfied with that which takes place during the nighttime. Whenever the moon is invisible, the darkness becomes complete. I will create stars to aid the moon so there will be light. And I will create one that will bring the day, which we will call Morning Star. When you see the large star, then the night will change, and the two will exchange themselves, and a new daylight will be on the earth. It is the new daylight that is most helpful in the growth of plants, such as the strawberry”.


I have been instructed that my kinship to Venus brings similar connections to casting light when Sun and Moon are dark. She navigates between Sun and Moon, as the morning and evening stars, respectively. An awareness of Venus’s polar rotation and these responsibilities will explain why sometimes I feel at odds with the normal flow of things and why I am comfortable with situations that create constant change and flux. By nurturing this awareness, I situate my way of seeing along the line between vision and reason, the poles around which Venus rotates.


Figure 14: My Location

I am thoughtful of this position. These conversations serve as lenses that expand and sharpen my vision, so I may explore the possibilities associated with the question “Is your work clean?” that is, the possibilities of casting light so something might grow. I recognize that some of the lenses are clearly polished by creation stories and teachings of my mother’s people, while other lenses have been gifted to me through my connection to knowledgeable people residing in various native communities[3] and by living consciously, through work, school, and social exchanges, within a western social system. I have never ignored my gifts. I was enrolled in the second year of a new course at Atkinson College of York University, titled Women and Business (now titled Gender Issues in Management). During this time, I used my final project for this course to help create and move to a new position as an Equity Coordinator for a large manufacturing company in Hamilton. Through awareness of my story, in Professor Ripley’s words, I “helped set the direction the course would take over the next decade and a half”.


The commonality of my academic study is to participate in innovation and to contribute to new pathways. My work experience has been equally innovative. Mentors and organizational leaders comment that I am ahead of my time. It is with humility that I recognize this insight as my gift, which requires responsibility with relationships and in actions. I have not always been good at relationships but I have always done more than my share to compensate for being shy and awkward with people.


These lessons provide insight into the initial question “Is your work clean?” and the indigenous interpretations of this question I encounter through ceremony so I might understand my relationship to creation. The journey through this document has established indigenous teachings contained within this question, as the core of life-giving desired within an indigenous philosophy of ethical space. The teachings flow from the basis of tin can bear fat ways of knowing and doing. The process is one of continuous question to develop an alternative understanding or expression of how we come together to create, sustain, and transmit our resources. To me, these practices are the wholistic expression of indigenous knowledge.


By building a case for tin can bear fat as the process for engaging the Counseling Wheel, I return to interpretations of text, the stories, teachings, ceremonies, and scholarships I have encountered, to fully comprehend the dynamics of ethical space. At the core of this theory are creation and traditional teachings as the indicators for building our actions to care with humility, love, and wellness.


I mentioned earlier that at times, I do not know what is in the can. This statement is a recognition of humility. I have been told that our language did not originally have a word for truth. Instead, the translation resembled the phrase “of what I know, this is what I know to be true”. In the same context, if I were to describe for you what is in the can in terms of my interpretations of the Counseling Wheel and ethical space I might create perceptions regarding these teachings as complete or as all there is to know. This is not the intention of this exploration or my assumptions. My intention is to hold up the can to create a dialogue of possibilities about what could be in the can.


Examples for possible inclusion in the can include explorations by institutional scholars and social theorists who have entered a dialogue for institutional change that focuses on tensions of symbolic domination and inequalities to create space for new structures, ideas, interactions, and cultural dynamics more reflective of the social, economic, and political environments as envisioned by an organic process. From my roots as an organizational theorist, these contributions excite my interest toward knowledge systems that promote a commitment to reciprocity and attributes relevant to the new direction.


As an example, one discussion to achieve transformation toward alternative western theory, whether indigenous or heterodox, is a look at behaviours, in particular the notions of commitment and integrity to support a humanistic eco-dynamics. These behaviours appear as attributes of integrative systems models, which begin to build a bridge between macro and micro systems. The inclusion of these voices in the can represent investigations into creating methods of sustainability and cooperative strategies between diverse knowledge groups.


            The relevance of these inclusions is mindfulness toward institutions and social political outcomes. These studies serve to emulate success, resistance, or timeliness to implement change. Their value is a manifestation of institutional power, norms, and values, within a monopolistic framework that aims to control and sustain the natural laws operating at the core of an indigenous framework. Through the lens of new institutionalism, our sense-making expands to identify gaps between the social and political change with regard to will, policy, and direction, and institutional reform and revision required to sustain change.


Alongside these contributions, I place in the can concepts of traditional institutionalism. Michael Thrasher has shared that the old one’s question “Is your work clean?” is often followed by lessons regarding acts of courage, wisdom, love, and kindness. These lessons are located in the Counseling Wheel and other teachings. The approach introduces ways of viewing institutions outside of the earlier new institutionalism views of western knowledge and opens the dialogue to include how organizational structure, approaches to exchange, and theoretical construction are shaped by the behaviour of individual members. Within the side-by-side existence, within the can, I am able to contemplate theories of institutionalism by examining the discrepancies relevant to side-by-side interpretations of occupying ethical space. Perhaps a motivation for occupying ethical space arises at least symbolically from efforts initiated by government and aboriginal peoples of Canada to establish organizational density and capacity to bring about change.


With or without formal motivations, aboriginal leaders are wading in to challenge health, education, justice, policy making, environmental issues, and economic development practices, utilizing indigenous knowledge as frameworks relevant to local community initiatives. These emerging indigenous scholarships and western movements articulate a new role for aboriginal scholars, balancing traditional and contemporary technologies. As a resource, indigenous scholars might be seen to outline key areas where aboriginal peoples’ contribution will be instrumental to the future, within both the local and the broader social community.


In assessing the potential of this role, I call to mind the work of Jeffrey Shepherd, who outlines how economic development within the Hualapai communities survived by nurturing traditional practices for inclusion into kinships. The practices meant individuals had to possess three qualities, Tokumet meaning “generally respected”, Akinami meaning “recognition of accomplishments”, and Pakawhat referring to “one’s oratorical abilities”. These actions of the Hualapai strengthen their national identity and economic agency.


         Similarly, the work of Mark Roseland suggests sustainable actions incorporate commitment to social equity, which is not just the creation of wealth but the conservation of resources. Roseland demonstrates that human assets, without a consideration for natural or environmental assets, should be regarded as a weak or insignificant outcome. Roseland concurs with Coleman and Putnam’s analysis that social capital is the “shared knowledge, understandings, and patterns of interaction of a group of people” brought together to create a productive activity. The activities are formalized through networks, cooperatives, and social practices. Within this context, a caring capacity is a prerequisite for sustainable development. From this position, Roseland concludes that the critical resource for multiplying social capital is not money, but rather trust, imagination, courage, commitment, time, and the relationships between individual and groups. These attributes provide potential hooks through key words like trust and courage, words linked to the Counseling Wheel. I regard these words as behaviours toward a shared space, a meeting place in order to examine the concepts of indigenous philosophies that promote hopeful strategies and actions for academic and social development.


From the teachings, I understand relationships and communal obligations as sacred. Michael Thrasher maintains that the movement to create ethical space is a life-long process. In a sense, the indigenous knowledge exchange serves as a means to create a community practice regarding the question “Is your work clean?” based on traditional or first principles. The concept of first principles ties into the earlier discussions in this document regarding ethics, sacredness, autonomy, and responsibility. Joseph Couture demonstrates the concept of first principles as spiritual awareness and values that shape response to realities. Essentially, the question “Is your work clean?” is about the personal responsibility toward the creation, transmission, and sustainability of indigenous knowledge.


In our capacity to care, we might build a shared perception that institutions always have a history in which they are the products of first principles. Returning to the issues that hinder our capacity, we need to acknowledge that under the influence of acculturation, eurocentric thought narrowed indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing to polarities of the self as knower and the world as the known. This resulted in communities hiding aspects of their knowledge. Hence, our teachings morphed in western contexts as a symbol of one dimensional lessons regarding such issues as race, colour, and gifts. Hidden from this one dimensional interpretation, however, is a wealth of knowledge regarding the wheel as a wholistic system, a complex, nonlinear expression of community meaning.


If we engage courage to wade in, we undertake skills, strategies, and partnerships to negotiate a space of dialogue and comprehension. From Thrasher’s teachings regarding respect, responsibility, and reciprocity, I regard this space as ethical space and in terms of the Counseling Wheel as the meeting space that hooks into all things relevant to understanding the system as a whole.


 Joseph Couture describes this space as one engaged in conversation versus conversion or argument. In this space, I wade into western and indigenous knowledge to engage in a dialogue. This conversation develops means of understanding one another’s ways of knowing and doing. I expand upon Couture’s assessment that native scholars benefit from the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and socio-political answers located in traditional practices. I suggest that those who wade in from both western and indigenous knowledge views benefit from traditional practices, as this space holds universal constants and informants relevant to humankind.


By engaging in practices and opportunities for sustaining expressions of indigenous knowledge, which foster indigenous knowledge as ethical space, I am advocating for indigenous ways of knowing and being, as understood from a spirit-based philosophical awareness. This context of conversion is relevant in terms of understanding concepts of exchange and change strategies, which moves our thinking from one point of awareness to another.


Change theorists argue that the decision to wake up is a decision to engage in conscious transformational change. The will of people to embrace a wholistic view will eventually create space for diverse conversations, in order to sustain the wholistic nature of the organization. Within organizational theory, the mechanisms for change are not the mechanisms themselves but the will and spirit of organizations[4]. I witnessed these changes during my professional career as a human resource strategist. These experiences alerted me to events that served as a wake-up call. Indigenous theorists, students, and community leaders have effectively been encouraging a national wake-up call for generations. During the past twenty years, indigenous leaders and organizational members have orchestrated relationships to consciously create side-by-side situations for success.


As with all transformative change initiatives, the closer organizations are to influencing change, the more likely they will experience internal resistance. Two factors feed internal resistance, fear and exhaustion. Through the Counseling Wheel, we see how the concept of fear determines whether one chooses not to care. Essentially, fear upsets our balance, our ability to see vision, build relationships, create reason, and inspire action. As well, Couture warns exhaustion is the product of imbalance, which may stem from over- or under-zealous actions. In this context, sustaining indigenous knowledge as ethical space means creating and sustaining a wholistic system rather than sustaining balance.


In western change strategies, initiatives impose actions to create and sustain balance by controlling or removing forces that effectively produce imbalances. Consequently, a system is considered to exemplify wholistic qualities if it is in balance, that is, operates without imbalances. Alternatively, an indigenous interpretation of balance is the co-existence of forces that create balance in tandem with forces that evoke imbalance.


Indigenous people’s wholistic knowledge systems originate from a whole system, as understood within the existence of creation stories. Within this spirit-based knowledge system, balance and its Trickster, imbalance, serve as the institutional models that move our life lessons along, operating together as one wholistic system. Indigenous knowledge as ethical space means you are part of this larger understanding. In this context, I begin to build a response to the question “Is your work clean?” As an answer, there is an assumption of deliberate and conscious actions to share in the responsibilities of caring for creation. Old ones speak about these actions through teachings of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility as behaviours and values that demonstrate this stewardship.


When theorists talk about developing institutional capacity in rural or urban aboriginal organizations, some attention is given to this spirit-based perspective. As example, trends within health, education, political, and institutional development, such as the First Nation Wholistic Policy and Planning Model (Appendix), introduced in June 2006, clearly document intentions for creating links both at a micro or community level, and at a macro or environmental and external level.


Similarly, in keeping with this trend, Statistics Canada’s Community Wellbeing Circle (Appendix) promotes efforts toward aboriginal community infrastructures, with an intention that these models demonstrate wholistic ways in order to foster shared action and dialogue between state officials and aboriginal communities. In this context, ethical space is not just a desired state of negotiation but a necessary state of being for aboriginal communities. Understanding this concept of spirit-based knowledge, however, means an integrative model does not create a model that inserts a spiritual attribute as part of the process. Instead, each part within the entire model is created with a spirit-based understanding.


A recent example of spirit-based modeling was introduced by Dr. Mark Dockstator as a response to the development of a First Nations Health Strategy. Dockstator presented to health professionals and policy stakeholders a wholistic model, based upon philosophical approaches to the concept of health arising from creation. The following is a summary of his presentation (Appendix):


Level 1 Represents creation, the act of creation, and the Creator, the beginning of all beginnings and therefore the basis from which all is derived and receives meaning. The straight line moving upwards from level 1 through the centre of all other levels represents the belief that the Creator represents the centre of all else that is created. If all subsequent levels resemble spinning wheels, the act of creation and the Creator are the hub around which all else revolves.

Level 2 – Represents the known universe, that is, all that is known and understood by humankind, who represents only a small part of the totality of creation.

Level 3 – When the earth was created as one small part of the total known universe, so too were humans. At the centre of level 3, we as humans are connected to creation through our spirituality. It is from our different belief systems, however they are expressed, that we are directly connected to creation, both the act of creation and the Creator, however many ways they are expressed and named by the different First Nations cultures and societies.

Level 4 – As a small part of all living things that were created on Mother Earth, different races of humankind were created. Each of the different races created their own different worldviews, that is, how we as humans understand our world. First Nations Peoples are connected to and express their worldview through their spirituality, which in turn connects us back to creation.

Level 5 – As First Nations Peoples we are connected to creation through our cultures, which are expressions of our worldview, which then connect us to our spirituality and so to creation.

Level 6 – As individuals we all possess an indigenous intelligence that when combined, such as by nations, forms indigenous knowledge systems. These different knowledge systems, not the same for all First Nations Peoples, are connected to our cultures, which are integrated into our worldviews, which are expressions of our spirituality.

Level 7 – As First Nations individuals we all develop our own identity, formed by that which we know (indigenous knowledge), which in turn is connected to our culture, which is an expression of our worldview and spirituality, all of which connects us to creation.


From this perspective of First Nations health, human beings are connected to the natural world, and thus to creation through the many different levels or layers of understanding. Each level represents only a small portion of the preceding one. All levels are interconnected. This begins with level one”.


Dockstator offers four guiding principles to consider upon reviewing his version. First, since the model is based on traditional teachings, the ownership of the model belongs to these communities. Second, it must be used as presented. Third, First Nation teachings are part of a living culture, and as a derivative, the model is a living model. Fourth, the model is one interpretation, used to investigate one aboriginal perspective. It is possible to explore each level from a spirit-based barometer. As example, questions associated with a community’s wellbeing and potential health initiatives to address stability within the community’s health network might be thought as how our health is, in terms of:


1.     Our spirituality (at the core): Do we have keepers? Traditionalist? Ceremonial people? Are new generations being nurtured to assume these roles?

2.     Our vision: Are we looking forward or are we stuck in the past? Has generational trauma crippled our vision? What does prophesy say about the future?

3.     Our time: How quickly or slowly do we need to move? And do we have a sense of who is doing what and when? Do we understand time from a metaphysical awareness, which includes mystery, magic, and alchemy?

4.     Our reason: Do we have knowledge keepers? Do we live in a good mind? Do we have methods to create, transmit, and sustain our ways? Do we include spiritual leaders in our decision-making processes within institutions?

5.     Our movement: Are communities isolated? Immobilized? Moving too fast? Do we incorporate methods to fast, take time to stop, and be silent?

6.     Our natural laws and our great laws: Locally and globally are we at peace? How are we manifesting peace within ourselves, families, and communities?

7.     Our land, sun, water, and air: Are we listening to these ancient and original teachers?


         The process of examining each element, for example, education, housing, economic, and political agency, demonstrates how to behave in an ethical space. Each element is addressed as a potential issue that may upset the flow of the Counseling Wheel and thereby trigger negative attributes that stem from fear or misunderstanding. The process also demonstrates the continuous attention to this space. After one round is completed, I might begin again with another series of questions associated with education, for example, questions about what knowledge is exchanged among our community members from:


1.     Trees: Their cycles, the medicines they produce? How has harvesting Trees affected our contemporary world?

2.     Minerals: Where are the ancient lines? Why are these lines relevant to our histories and our futures? Should we continue to harvest minerals to support consumption versus sustainability? What does the land say?

3.     Animals: As the clan systems? As helpers and storytellers? Do we have keepers of these systems?

4.     Ancient Ones: Who are the ancient ones who roamed the earth before us? How do ceremonies connect us to their knowledge?


The process demonstrates itself as one of questions rather than answers. Our understanding of ethical space is not a matter of measuring the system and determining impact as either positive or negative from technology or other factors. The actions require innovation and coherence to all creation as stakeholders in everyday practice. Hence, to develop actions in the context of clean work, new characteristics are required to move beyond factors covered through quantitative and qualitative questions regarding such things as accessibility, quality, and supply. These new mechanisms expand upon social self-determination forces of wants and needs to include indicators regarding motivation to care about all creation, or forces of spirit.


Chapter Summary


Working along the line between vision and reason, from East to West, this chapter returns to the East, the place of respect. By looking again at emerging scholarship regarding institutionalism and western and indigenous knowledge systems, we begin to establish competencies regarding a capacity to advance social consciousness, in order that we might know how to observe, interpret, and operate within ethical space.


Within this context, indigenous knowledge frameworks interlope western institutions through partnerships and best practices, which represent the local knowledge of the community. As such, actions that promote social equity and sustainability leverage the social capital and wellbeing for all. As timeless imperatives, the values located in the traditional teachings are critical resources for moving western and indigenous knowledge systems into a side-by-side existence and models of best practices.


To achieve these results, we demonstrate a readiness and a willingness to initiate change strategies; we respond to a wake-up call to engage conscious transformative behaviours. Once again, the inclusion of behaviour and responses links the process of change to control and flux dialectics. With regard to my exploration, I suggest these changes are innate to indigenous knowledge frameworks, which assume change and flux as the organic mix contained within a wholistic system.


The reflections in this chapter illustrate the complexity of the questions despite their apparent simplicity and our need to continue to ask and seek answers to these questions. The complexity stems from the impact of western systems and models, which have historically dismissed aboriginal systems and models as valid institutions, despite their formation within a collective reality. As well, the complexity stems from the creation of new models, which require new measurements to indicate the connection human society has to all creation. These models illustrate the implications for indigenous knowledge as ethical space in the context of clean work. Specifically, these models utilize a spirit-based barometer, which I might conclude, responds to the secondary questions posed by the old ones, “Does your work help others?” and “Does your work harm others?”

[1] Daily Mail is a 20 by 36 inch portrait of my grandfather, Donald McCoy. Recent documents suggest our family originated from Cattaraugus, New York. It is unclear from the documentation if my grandfather was Seneca or Chippewa. We have always assumed we were Seneca from his and my mother’s stories but my niece is uncovering information that suggests my grandfather’s mother was relocated into Seneca Territory.

[2] Robert Gary Miller is a Mohawk artist and community advocate. His paintings include a piece gifted to the Queen of England, in recognition of the Nation to Nation relationship between the Iroquois Peoples and England. He currently resides in the Peterborough area but spent his earlier years living in the Quinte territory of Tyendinaga and the village of Stirling.

[3] Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Hopi, Métis, Mississauga, Mohawk, Onondaga, Ojibwa, Seneca, Stoney.

[4] Personal conversation with Spencer Warren, Quality Manager, Comtek Advanced Structures (aviation industry), October 2007.

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