“Culture is not a product. Culture is a process.” - Elder Jerry Saddleback*

  • The National Gathering of Elders was held in Edmonton October 11-14, 2017 at the Edmonton Expo Center. The attendance was more than anticipated. Sharon Pasula

This wizened, good natured, Indigenous man shares some wisdom of the ancients. He carries experience from time immemorial.

Such a stark contrast to what has become known as a “western worldview” that allows “Indigenous cultural sensitivity training” where it is expected of people to actually understand an Indigenous worldview. The event is known by many names: “F.N.M.I. cultural awareness”, “Aboriginal professional development,” “Indigenous corporate training,” and, perhaps the worst one of all, “Indigenous cultural competency.” Imagine this inanimate creature sometimes consumes as little as one day, often two days, or in some rare exotic instances, one week after which participants (and their bosses) anticipate their world will be much better because now they know and theoretically understand those people who make them so uncomfortable, who take them outside of their comfort zone, who impinge on their (white) privilege: Indigenous peoples – be they clients or learners, many of whom are legally wards of the crown.

How is it possible for people who still adhere to and base decisions on that evil Doctrine of Discovery, and treat all things as secular to be consumed at will – how is it possible for people with this worldview to possibly understand and respect original peoples who traditionally “pray with smoke” or smudge daily, perform a ceremony of thanksgiving before harvesting medicines, thank the animal for giving its life to give us life, who believe everything is sacred because it all was created by a sacred being, and who don’t believe in land or resource ownership because we are only stewards – it all belongs to Creator. Is it possible? Seems like someone has to change.

“Culture is not a product. Culture is a process.”

*Engaging with Indigenous learner’s event, Maskwacis Community College, March 2, 2018.

Sharon Pasula is an Indigenous spiritual and cultural resource person who lives in Boyle Street.

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