I’ve had the good fortune over the years to work with some First Nations communities.  From those experiences, I have started to get a bit of a visceral understanding of what some values and beliefs are that may be different than my own, or perhaps missing from my own.

One such value is the idea of “respect.”  While the Judeo-Christian religion (and European culture) has many types of respect embedded in it, I would say “love” is more the value I grew up with than “respect” per se.

I am presently reading a Master’s Thesis by Dale Hunt entitled: “We Are All Different, Still Living Under the Same Culture” A Kwakwaka’wakw Perspective on Dispute Resolution and Relationship Building.”  A most fascinating read!

The value of respect is being described in so many different ways and it often circles back to respect for the land as well.  When a culture has a value of respect that is central to their lives and operates on the individual, familial, societal and then the land level, there is a wisdom there that is deep.  Of course, this wisdom goes back thousands of years in relation to the land they are living on.

I remember being involved in a First Nations and Fisheries dialogue, where it was evident that the people who lived in that part of the world, and had for centuries, had intimate knowledge of what was happening in the seas. This put them in a stewardship position by virtue of their knowledge.

Can we take this perspective and apply it to the way the broader (dominant) culture is relating to the land?  And, can we look to our First Nations leaders for such guidance?

I wonder what would happen if we could walk the concept of “respect” and apply it to the land we live on as well as our relationships?  I lived for a year in Japan, and saw the impact of a culture living a concept of beauty together as well as their culturally-contextualized definition of respect.  It is transformative when a mass of people embrace certain elevating ideals and principles.

Here are a few quotes from Hunt’s thesis to illustrate a glimpse of what I mean:

Hunt quotes from David Neel’s 1992 book called Our Chiefs and Elders: Words and Photographs of Native Leaders to illustrate a definition of respect:

“Respect is the foundation for all relationships: between individuals, with future and past generations, with Earth, with animals, with our Creator (use what name you will), and with ourselves. Respect is both simple and difficult, small and vast. To understand and apply it to our lives is an ongoing process.”

He also quotes from Richard Atleo’s 2004 book Tsawalk:A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview: “respect (isaak) necessitates a consciousness that all creation has a common origin, for this reason isaak is extended to all life forms.”

Also having spent many years working in a refugee agency, I have come to see the wisdom in both holding on to one’s own culture and partnering and embracing aspects of another’s.

There is a space, and a necessity, for inter-cultural dialogue.

How can we enter into those spaces more now?  Can we enter with humility and at the same time with an open hand?  We each have wisdom to offer the other.

Can we partner?

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”  …. Ryunosuke Satoro