Sandi’s Book: Teaching Indigenous Concepts of

“Clean Work” to Western Business Thought

Afterword (by Louise Ripley)


Preparing this book, converting Sandi Warren’s doctoral thesis to a book, has been a journey of knowledge and a labour of love, and has finally answered for me the question of which one of us learned more from the other. Surely I have learned so much more from Sandi than she did from me.


As I worked on the book, to understand concepts, to better phrase an explanation, I kept wanting to talk to Sandi to ask what I should do. I worked with her picture (at the front of this book) beside me on my desk, and eventually I realized that I was conversing with her, that she was there beside me because I needed her.


It was not the first time she had come to sit by me. Just as Sandi talks about her grandfather being beside her in her car when she most needed to be watchful, I once was driving to work, dreading some kind of altercation at the university, when I suddenly looked over and there was Sandi sitting beside me! I quickly thought through what I needed to do to defuse the situation at work, and reached to squeeze her hand. It turned into a perfect day.


I had not imagined having to do this labour, when I was working with Sandi on her doctoral study as one of her four supervisors. As one often has to do with exceptionally fine students, we had to keep reining her in, suggesting she do less and not more so she would finish the thesis before she turned ninety. We reassured her there would be plenty of time in the future for her to do all that she wanted to do coming out of the thesis. In part because we had been so assuring to Sandi that she would have plenty of time when indeed she had but several months, I threw myself into it completely. I am deeply conscious of her Seneca word, teke’nyaha’, “to do what needs doing”. This is the spirit with which I worked on Sandi’s book. And in doing so, I learned much about my own research.


I have never been quite comfortable as a quantitative scholar. I can do statistics and finance and numbers and I actually love algebra, but after completing a Ph.D. based in logistic regression on a 57 item questionnaire sent to 700 companies with a 40 percent response rate, I became convinced that there had to be a better way for me to find things out. This was particularly important to me as a graduate of one of America’s finest liberal arts schools, Shimer College in Illinois. Sandi refers often to the interconnectedness of all things, especially with Obamsawin’s comment that “the strength of the indigenous view is the ability to see and connect disciplines”. I emerged from this work with an even greater appreciation of my Shimer education, which in the tradition of undergraduate liberal arts schools, embodied above all what Sandi refers to as “the gift of all things connected”.


Sandi believed in a liberal education (my words). Although we were in seemingly different doctoral fields, I in western business, she in indigenous studies, so much of what I do in my academic life overlaps with hers. I include among these my research papers at cybernetics conferences, my depth of connection to systems theory, my passion for women’s studies, which branched out for me from marketing. As I studied Sandi’s thesis in order to convert it to a book, I realized how much she had indeed learned from me, but overwhelmingly how much more I had learned from her. 


This is feeling a little like Douglas R. Hofstatder’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, in which he explores self-referential loops. I have used my knowledge and understanding of research to figure out how Sandi’s research helped her to know about her learning and her writing, and in turn I am using that knowledge to improve and diversify my own research and writing.


I will miss Sandi terribly. I have taught my class on the night she used to be with us every fall semester and the classroom feels empty and hollow without her on that day. But Sandi was always cheerful and optimistic and would not have wanted me to end on a sad note. Therefore I will tell you one more mental connection Sandi and I shared. In meeting after meeting for planning her work, evaluating it, hearing of her progress, she and I consistently showed up in very similar clothes (Sandi had taught me that native women wear skirts in order to pull the power of the earth up into their being), and most strange, almost identical colours! In the words of Anne of Green Gables, we were a kind of kindred spirits.



Perhaps most meaningful to me, I learned what it means to answer the question “Is your work clean?” by following Sandi’s journey along the same path. I have done my very best, through many months and much concentrated labour to craft Sandi’s book as I imagine she would have liked to see it had she had the time to do the work we had promised her she would have. I learned to ask myself the question, and to seek ways in which my work on Sandi’s book is clean. It starts with the title and authorship. The title must portray to the reader the important message she wanted to broadcast, and that is the viability of indigenous knowledge interloping western business thought to bring us all to a place where we can better organize the way we do work – the way we organize it, the way we perform it, the way we evaluate it, the way we treat the people who are doing it, the relationships we have with all who are related to it, and the way we tell if what we have accomplished is good, and ethical, and sacred. The authorship must be Sandi first, but then also me, because we had talked for so long about writing something together and I hope she will look back and see what I have done with her work and be pleased. It is a balance of her writing, my writing, and my editing for both of us.  


Balance is perhaps the single most important item that Sandi deals with in the entirety of her thesis, because her primary terms: ethical space, sacred space, clean work, indigenous knowledge and wading in all are based in balancing. The essence of the difference between western and indigenous thought on balance is here in Sandi’s words:


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.


There are many experiences in this work that exemplify Sandi Warren, but none so much as this statement from early in Chapter Nine. I believe it represents the essence of Sandi Warren. She is speaking of a dream/vision in which she and many others are climbing the rock structures (hoodoos) in order to escape a coming flood. She has made it to the top and safety, but she tells us:


Immediately, I decided that I had to climb back down and help others to find another way out of the path of the flood. It was not possible for me to continue forward, knowing that others had been left behind.


Sandi helped so many people in her journey on earth. I hope my version of her book will be good enough to bring her work to many others who may come, through it, to true ethical and sacred spacce.

 M Louise Ripley

                                                                                                                May 31, 2012






This is the falcon feather Sandi gifted me with, one of the last times we taught together, accompanying a poem that came to me as I was starting work on Sandi’s Book.

 Falcon Feather


Wading In


Like a novice

Stepping carefully

Only onto large flat dry stones

Near the river’s edge

For eight weeks

I picked my way around your story

Afraid to begin


Now, recognizing I am no novice

I am wading in – up to my shoulders

The weight of carrying you

Nearly wearing me down

Until Spencer reminds me

You would not want to think

You were a burden

And I realize that

Of course you’re not a burden

Of course I can carry you

Of course I can tell your story

For Sandi Warren, February 26, 2012
on bringing her dissertation to a book







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