Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A strange Connection! Aboriginal Values meet Web 2.0 Values!

This is a confusing world. As a child, I remember hearing my parents urging me to share with others, while my Christian upbringing pressed me to give, but the society I grew up in pushed me to get ahead of the other guy, compete, and be the best. Strange messages swirled around me outside of my home: "Nice guys finish last", "He who has the most toys wins." "Win at any cost!" "It's survival of the fittest." I'm sure this rings true for many others and I think it is fair to say that the messages we have gotten from society in general have made many people more individualistic, more committed to "What's in it for me?" thinking, and I think less connected to their fellow man.

Over the course of the Community Based Master's Program I am part of, I began to hear another voice that I had not really heard before. It was the voice of aboriginal thinkers. I heard about generosity and for the good of the community over and over (and trust me I know these values exist in all cultures). Traditional Aoriginal teachings seemed to be consistently about doing what was good for all; the self had a responsibility to the group. It is such a different way than that of the capitalistic western world (and one that I think many Aboriginal people would agree has been eroded in aboriginal communities influenced by western thinking). Yet, I still see examples of this generosity today. For example, in the north, it is not uncommon for communities to raise money through auctions to help families that have suffered a loss; I grew up in a culture that believed it was shameful if you could not afford to bury your loved one. My wife (she is Dene) regularly has relatives that share a catch or a kill with her; she routinely goes to their assistance in times of need. When she does, I catch myself thinking, "What will that cost? I realize now that that thinking is a scar from my own socialization as a child raised in a capitalist world.

My journey through the Community Based Master's Program has taken me to new places and I have been reflecting on ideas that Aboriginal people have exposed me to. It started in a class as I was challenged over and over again to see things from an Aboriginal perspective. Then a colleague shared a list of Dene Laws with me; I immediately was challenged by the first law, "Share what you have." But I decided I would begin to move to be a more giving person in school.

These are small things that I consciously did this school year to be more giving; I have found 25 cents when a student was short for a drink, I have shared candy (that I had deliberately brought to school) with students in my office (even the ones in trouble), I have offered bottles of water to colleagues that look like they needed it, and I have expected nothing in return. However, what I have gotten is a feeling that I was doing the right thing - it felt good. I was sharing and making a strong human connection at the same time.

Today, after listening to Dean Shareski's presentation to my EC&I 831 class, I realized that sharing extends beyond what we have. Sharing knowledge is also sharing something of value. Perhaps, the world of Web 2.0 will move society back to the notion that we should share openly without condition for the good of our world community. Perhaps communities will become less insulated from the human condition that surrounds them and become more globally conscious. Sounds like the 21st century thinkers may be taking us to a world view that is not unlike that of traditional Aboriginal values; a strange connection indeed!

Just for the record, here are the Dene Laws. Sorry I do not have a source but I believe it has come out of the North West Territories.

Dene Laws

1. Share what you have.
2. Help each other.
3. Love each other as much as possible.
4. Be respectful of elders and everything around you.
5. Sleep at night and work during the day.
6. Be polite and don’t argue with anyone.
7. Young girls and boys should behave respectfully.
8. Pass on the teachings.
9. Be happy at all times.

La Loche Community School – Dene Building is proud of its Dene roots. We think the world can learn lots from the Dene people and we are striving as a school to honour and respect the Dene people, their language, and their traditions.

Image taken from


Dean said...


Those are wonderful connections you've made with your wife's culture,sharing and technology. In fact, part of my role is First Nations and Metis initiatives. I see many cultural norms that fit nicely with the social media of today. Making those types of connections really help to ease people into using them. It takes the mystique or geekiness out of the technology and puts it in terms they can relate to.

I'd encourage you to continue to make and "share" your connections and metaphors.

Cheryl Morin said...

Hi Stephen,

Sorry you didn't see the link I had posted at the bottom of my blog entry for
Duffy's quote about Constructivist Learning and Teaching :

I am not sure how to post the link so it 'lights up' (lol) for lack of the correct term.

You should check out the site I posted for PBS videos from the show Frontline. There are tons of great videos on everything from tech. in China to teens openess on line and the reasons behind it as explained by the teens, researchers, parents etc.

I admire your ability to share the personal connections you post on line.

At first , it struck me as odd that I would write such personal stuff also for strangers to read but now I see it as a venue to see my thoughts 'aired' to even perhaps get a reaction from someone else without me having to verbalize, especially when I am in a rush at school but at home when I have more time, more meaningful ideas have the freedom to 'flow'.

Your comments on values struck a chord with me. I have always thought that everything old was new again. Despite the massive changes in our lives and society, nothing can make life better than that feeling of connection, whether it be face to face or on-line with someone who 'gets what you mean.'

Sharing,understanding, concern, compassion or any other values that comes to mind are present in the digital and virtual world. THey can be accessed as fast as one can text or keyboard. I watched the video I mentioned above about on-line safety for teens and many of the reasons they gave for their focused attention to online connectivity was that 'somone was always there to listen, to be available, to offer advice, to acknowledge the speaker'. The double lives that children and others lead on line and in real life occur because they only find a 'real audience' who is non judgemental online. Of course the opposite holds true as well. And they get to be 'participants' and
'creators' rather than bystanders and invisible as they seem to think they are in real life.

Your class seem exciting and busy. I can tell by your blog that you are experimenting and participating in your learning... Way to go...!! I am learning alot from it. Thanks for taking the time to share all of the great blog sites, etc.
Cheryl M.

Send Walter your skype name. He is compiling an address book of sorts...