I attend a number of conferences throughout the year which focus on a wide range of topics. The conferences range from boring and unnecessary to the occasional stupendous event which changes the entire way I think about the world and/or myself. The conference I attended over the last couple of days falls into the latter category. Although I work with Native American tribes on a very peripheral basis, the conference I recently attended included a full tribal immersion event which taught me a number of lessons:
- Stop talking and listen to your elders. In a tribal setting, the elders are highly revered and a lot of knowledge is passed to the young from the elders of the tribe. Everyone is expected to be quiet and listen to the elders whether they are saying what you want to hear or not, whether they are talking in allegories or not, and whether they are officially "educated" or not, the wisdom they have to share in invaluable and the only way to learn is to stop talking and start listening.
- One of the elders said "Don't teach all of your children the same things or they won't need each other and the world will fall apart." Wow. Makes sense to me.
- The group walked though a beautiful flower garden. It was a regular kind of flower garden that you would find just about anywhere, however, with knowledgeable tribe members at our side, we learned that just about everything we saw was edible. Who would have though that stinging nettles would be something healthy to ingest?
- You have to look at situations from other's point of view. Everyday we make assumptions about other people, we create programs, initiatives, and policies that impact other people without giving much consideration to whether the people who are impacted want these things and how other people will accept these things.
- You inherit things, land, and knowledge not to keep for yourself and not to squander away but to improve upon and pass along to the next generation.