Monday, April 28, 2008

How to Collaborate with Native people.

Collaboration is a many splendored thing. It can be the best experience, and at the same time the worst. Collaboration is working together to meet some goal, make something happen, sharing communications in an altruistic manner. Collaboration is a hard thing to do, because not all of us will ask for/accept help. I wrote before that the Creator has given us all some special ability, but I think the ability given the most and used the least is the gift of communication. We can talk to one another, and through that activity gain insights on what another's thoughts are. Some people use this to benefit themselves. Some use it only enough to get through the day, with minimal interaction with others and all the nature around them. Can we communicate and collaborate with nature? I guess it depends on what you hear when the earth talks to you. Does the farmer or rancher keep using the land when he knows it needs to lay fallow? Good farmers let the earth rest, or use practices that minimize the effects of plowing and overgrazing. Here in Western MT some places have only the thinnest of usable soils available, and if you drive your ATV over it much, the vegetative supporting layer is destroyed. Continued use makes ruts and eventually gullys, ruining more land. Is this collaboration? Probably not, unless you confine the road use to existing roadways. then eventually the roadways limit use when natural processes make road use impossible. I collaborate with several people, and am always looking for new collaborators. But the process is time consuming and a little tricky. I started working with 2 ladies in a nearby city, and for about a year I went to their office and visited them, and had them come to my office. I feel that because of the investment I have made, that if they need to make a decision for me in a snap, they can, and for the most part I'm pretty comfortable with what is decided. If I need something from them, I'm comfortable with asking almost anything, because they worked towards the collaborative understanding as hard as I did. In essence the collaboration was forged. Look up a definition of forge and you find that it has some difficulty involved, from hammering metal, concerted efforts, trying to get ahead, any number of things related to making something. Even the negative, as in making a counterfeit, would involve an investment in time and resources to occur. Anyone who says collaborations are easy doesn't really know what it is all about, then, do they? To collaborate with Native people, greet them to begin with. The next thing is to set aside an extended time to really gain an appreciation for the culture, philosophy and personal relationships they have. Extended family and external forces are a constant with most of us, because we have familial responsibilities that are poorly understood by the west. A western person might have that weird uncle or auntie you only see at family reunions or gatherings and a native probably has one living with them, or sees that person on a day-to day basis. And, we care about and for that person, and feel we have to, all because of these family ties. Where the West would put someone in an institution (or nursing home etc...) , natives as a general feel they must take care of that person. Family duty or honor. We revere the elderly, because of what they know. This understanding is the hardest to explain, because there is no "typical" native family. Collaboration takes work, and when successful is a joy to the heart. If you decide to collaborate, spend the needed time to get to know your partners, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oral histories- future tense and Escape Pod

This is a shameless plug for my favorite audio podcast, Escape Pod. for recreation I read a great deal of science fiction, looking for that better place that fits my particular worldview. A story called Friction by Will McIntosh and read By Stephen Eley was something that fit my thinking on the day I listened to it. I was working and listening and thinking about what I was doing, and wondered about the friction we all face in our day-to-day lives. Made me think about what I want out of the rest of my life, and what changes I can make to enable that. I made a connect today with the oral histories, or futures as the case may be. I love hearing a story, as do all os us in our core. Stories that are of interest to us are even better. If you look at podcasts, make sure to include something enjoyable and even challenging to your list. You might learn something about yourself in the process. I like science fiction almost as much as science itself, and I am looking forward to a 16 foot 20 pound tipi sometime in the future. One that sets itself up with the push of a button. Well, maybe that would be inappropriate use of technology, but it would be cool, right? So head right over to for your Sci-Fi fix. See you in the future, right?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Community and what it means.

Community, in the native sense is all the people and places and things you know intimately. In the tipi days, everyone from every family (barring tribal taboos) talked to and knew people from their own and other families. People went "visiting relatives." During "visiting" I think much native knowledge was passed on, almost always in an informal setting. These settings were anywhere people met and talked. When you go to an elder and ask "How do you do that?" inevitably it requires several stories and anecdotes surrounding that information. It helps you have an intimate relationship with the giver and history of the information. The particular bit of knowledge may only be a few sentences, but the required cultural information is encoded into the lore associated with it. I guess it is sort of like owning a gun. It is all wood and steel with moving parts and shiny bits and browns and blacks and blues, and to you a thing of beauty. Then anyone can pick it up, and learn to put cartridges in and set it off. At face value, this is is no great feat. But instilling the associated moral, ethical and cultural values into a person before setting it off MUST be done to prevent it from being used in an inappropriate way. How do you get those moral, ethical and cultural values? You have to be associated and involved with a community that has those values. Someone once said, it takes a village to raise a child, which is true, but can be immediately negated if that village has no sense of community. We, as Indian people must strive to regain our communities, remember and visit our elders and maintain our ties to our land and community. This is a key ingredient of our unique place in the world of today, an important distinction and difference between the west and Indigenous people of the Americas. Indians are the only people I have observed that gather regardless of tribe and do meaningful activities. We carry our culture everywhere and dance, sing and talk because it is a part of our nature to be connected to many things at once. We just have to try and keep all those connections open.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One last note on Books!

I need to make a statement here on the book list and its addendum. I have specifically used titles I think will be attractive to a large audience. There are many more books I like but don't want on the list because I feel it may alienate a segment of the population. (Immigrants, you can figure this out for yourself or ask...) I have left out some books that are great, but tend to be inflammatory. Many of these titles include use of the words "racism" and "racist" far too much for my liking. I hope to move to a level above that and truly have meaningful discussions about what is appropriate science, and what the context and content should be for teaching. I say to everybody I talk to, "If the context fits, the content to fill that context is readily available." So anyone reading this blog should know that is my philosophy. E-mail me if you would like the optional list, I will get a list of authors sent back to you ASAP.

Xest snyaqukay (Good Afternoon in Salish. This blog doesn't allow me to use the Salish Font, so please bear with me.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Definitely Definitions

In the class I teach, NASD 210, I have this list of definitions I use derived mostly from Wiktionary. I thought it might be enlightening for people to see this list, and maybe get some comment. It is vital to have words and phrases defined in order to further discussion, to make sure we are all on a level playing field. I have edited this list somewhat for space. Just for your own purposes, look up technology. I think the answer will be quite enlightening. The list is in no particular order. Have a good day! Nem el es wichtmn! (I will see you again. the font isn't quite right, sorry Salish writers and speakers!)

Definitions for NASD 210

1. The profession of teaching.
2. The activities of educating, teaching or instructing.

1. The methods or techniques used to teach adults.

1. born or engendered in, native to a land or region, especially before an intrusion, especially of plants and indigenous peoples.
2. figuratively, innate

Literally, "native to the soil"; from autochthon.
1. Native to the place where found; indigenous.
2. (biology, medicine) Originating, where found.
3. (geology) Buried in place, especially of a fossil preserved in its life position without disturbance or disarticulation.

1. Originating in a place other than where it is found.
2. (geology) Buried or found in a place remote from the site of formation.

1. First; original; indigenous; primitive; native; as, the aboriginal tribes of America.
2. Of or pertaining to aborigines; as, a Hindoo of aboriginal blood.

science (plural sciences)
1. The collective discipline of study or learning acquired through the scientific method; the sum of knowledge gained from such methods and discipline.
2. A particular discipline or branch of learning, especially one dealing with measurable or systematic principles rather than intuition or natural ability.
3. (Biblical) The fact of knowing something; knowledge or understanding of a truth:
4. (archaic) Knowledge gained through study or practice; mastery of a particular discipline or area.

religion (plural religions)
1. A system of beliefs, including belief in the existence of at least one of the following: a human soul or spirit, a deity or higher being, or self after the death of one’s body.
2. A number of customs and rituals associated with such beliefs.
3. Anything that involves the association of people in a manner resembling a religious institution or cult.
4. Any system or institution which one engages with in order to foster a sense of meaning or relevance in relation to something greater than oneself.

to consecrate
1. To declare, or otherwise make something holy.

1. Set apart by solemn religious ceremony; especially, in a good sense, made holy; set apart to religious use; consecrated; not profane or common; as, a sacred place; a sacred day; sacred service.
2. Relating to religion, or to the services of religion; not secular; religious; as, sacred history.
3. Designated or exalted by a divine sanction; possessing the highest title to obedience, honor, reverence, or veneration; entitled to extreme reverence; venerable.
4. Hence, not to be profaned or violated; inviolable.
5. Consecrated; dedicated; devoted; -- with to.
6. (archaic) Solemnly devoted, in a bad sense, as to evil, vengeance, curse, or the like; accursed; baleful.

1. desecration, profanation, misuse or violation of something regarded as sacred
desecration (plural desecrations)
2. An act of disrespect or impiety towards something considered sacred; blasphemy, sacrilege or profanation.

1. desecration, blasphemous behaviour, or the act of profaning

1. Belonging to one by birth.
2. Characteristic of or relating to people inhabiting a region from the beginning.
3. Characteristic of or existing by virtue of geographic origin.
4. (biology, of a species) Which occurs of its own accord in a given locality, to be contrasted with a species introduced by man.
5. (computing, of software) Written specifically to run on a particular processor.

The term comes from the Latin word occidentem meaning the "western sky, part of the sky in which the sun sets." [1] And like the term western, it is often used only to refer to things of or pertaining to France and England, and later came to include United States and Canada.
1. Of, pertaining to, or situated in, the occident, or west; western; – opposed to oriental; as, occidental climates, or customs; an occidental planet.
2. Possessing inferior hardness, brilliancy, or beauty; – used of inferior precious stones and gems, because those found in the Orient are generally superior.

1. (of a nation) The ability to make its own laws and control its own resources.
2. (of God) Supremacy over all, supreme authority. (Ref. ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’)
3. (of self) The ability to make its own values and restraints. Also see autonomy.

1. A group of people sharing aspects of language, culture and/or ethnicity.
2. A historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture
3. (law) (international law) A sovereign state.

1. A socially, ethnically, and politically cohesive group of people.
2. (anthropology) A society larger than a band but smaller than a state.
3. The collective noun for various animals.

1. Of or pertaining to India or its people.
2. Of, or related to, the aboriginal people of the Americas, the people who lived in the Americas before the Europeans came, as well as the descendants of such people.

privilege (plural privileges)
1. A peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor; a right or immunity not enjoyed by others or by all; special enjoyment of a good, or exemption from an evil or burden; a prerogative; advantage; franchise.
2. (law) a common law doctrine that protects certain communications from being used as evidence in court.
prerogative; immunity; franchise; right; claim; liberty.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Additions to Book List

I have just added two new titles to my reading list. One is purely about teaching an learning science, Jack Hassard's "The Art of Teaching Science: Inquiry and Innovation in Middle and High School" (ISBN 0-19-515533-5) because it asks teachers to view teaching science as an art, and to add aspects of many different disciplines into a science class. Many of the types of experiential learning activities I use with adult learners are included as lessons for younger students. I think this approach works with all age groups because in our deepest core, it is the way we really learn to know something. We learn by doing and experiencing. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.
The second is 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, ISBN 1-4000-3205-9. A very nice compendium of what indigenous peoples of the Americas were like before the arrival of the Europeans. No Science for Indians? I think not! Huge civilizations, running water, advanced mathematics, large community farms were all a tiny part of what the American continents carried in technology. I'm still in the process of reading and rereading this book, it keeps me coming back.
See you later!