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.

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