Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Native values

Although I'm a recovering planner, I still like to track the design and development stories that show up on Planetizen, The Urban Planning, Design and Development Network. Yesterday, I came across one from Alaska that I hope represents a major emerging trend. It was entitled Integrating Native Values with Community Planning. The main take-away is the author's finding that:
Traditional Native culture places a strong emphasis on community and sharing, which parallels many new urbanist ideas. Reverence for elders and traditional knowledge can be incorporated into housing projects that seek to integrate multiple generations. Subsistence and living off the land could inspire developments that include community gardens or berry patches. In general I think Alaska stands to benefit greatly from incorporating more Native values into public policy–community planning and otherwise
a "berry" small berry patch
a "berry" small berry patch     © harrington

Based on how impressed I am by the wisdom Robin Wall Kimmerer displays with her combination of Native American and scientific ways of knowing, and my experience working with Native Americans in Minnesota on several affordable housing developments with some mixed uses included, the only change I'd make to the statement quoted would be to delete "Alaska" and insert "the United States." We need to shift our values and develop a much more caring relationship with the earth we depend on. It isn't just a pantry, or a storehouse, or a commodity warehouse, or a place to pile our middens. It's the only home we have. Bob Dylan, in Masters of War, nicely capturesmany of  my feelings about too many of today's corporations when he sings
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
Toys are for children. One of the signs of childhood is demanding immediate gratification, similar to the perspectives of corporations and their leaders. We need of leaders in the corporate and public spheres who can see beyond this quarter's P & L statement or next month's election. Many of the values we need to recognize and honor I've found in my readings about Native Americans, especially the Anishinaabe. The idea of having a relationship with the earth and its persons (not just humans) based on something other than colonial exploitation is a good and necessary step forward. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one thinking and feeling this way. Perhaps, if Native Americans show the rest of us can how to follow their original instructions, we could more readily find a sustainable pot of gold.

rainbow's end?
rainbow's end?              © harrington

Eagle Poem

By Joy Harjo 

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

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