Oral Traditions Can Help Solve Problems

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Utilizing cultural traditions to enhance community development was the focus of a recent course at Red Crow Community College (RCCC). The course (Restoring Indigenous Ways: Community Development Planning and Practice in First Nations Communities) examined how Blood Tribe traditions, culture, and spirituality are being incorporated into the problem solving process.

About 24 people from Southern Alberta gathered on July 23-27 for an experiential cross-cultural immersion workshop. Participants included social workers, community planners, community workers, students, and faculty. The workshop was designed to examine ways in which traditional indigenous healing practices can be incorporated into the education and practice of community organizers, planners, and social workers.

First Nations have been increasingly concerned that western approaches to community development planning have minimized or ignored the vital perspectives of First Nations people. RCCC agreed to host this unique gathering to learn about community development efforts on the Blood Indian Reserve. The workshop was planned to coincide with the annual Sundance, a traditional community and spiritual event.

Participants explored with tribal and community educators how traditional spiritual, historic, and cultural traditions are gradually being used to guide and support community development efforts. For example, the elders present over the weekend stressed the use of oral traditions as a basic learning tool. Participants were urged not to take notes but to listen carefully and to remember what was said. “The elders really stressed that we should be able to absorb things through listening and by utilizing all our senses,” said one attendee.

An RCCC student counselor who participated said, “It helped me to realize that when you are in the social work field, you have to respect everything about a person like their religious beliefs and cultural background. Also, one of the speakers made me realize how fortunate we are to have this land base (Blood Reserve) that we can always come back to, and that we have such a strong attachment to the land.” In order to receive college credit from the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work, participants had to hand in a journal of their thoughts and an academic paper.

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