Our Personal Approach to Cultural Sharing
“Everyone likes to give as well as receive. No one wishes only to receive all the time.
We have taken much from your culture…I wish you had taken something from our culture…
for there were some beautiful and good things in it.”
—CHIEF DAN "TESWAHNO" GEORGE, My Heart Soars, 1979
Multiculturalism and inter-cultural relations increasingly affect us all, whatever our own personal background and wherever we are. I am Métis, following my dad’s side of the family, and Métis, which is acknowledged as its own culture in Canada, stems from the French word for “mixed.” Métis children are the descendants of one First Nations parent (usually Ojibway or Cree)—in my case it is Ojibway—and one European parent (usually French)—in my case it is French. My mom’s side of the family is British and German, which adds to the mix. For a Métis person, matters of inter-cultural sharing are not merely political discussions, but they are in the bones. The history of the Métis people in Canada has always been about finding balance, and forging new directions out of the cultural cracks between two, seemingly disparate, ancient traditions, while honoring and respecting both. The chosen Métis cultural symbol, ∞, reminds us that in some fundamental way all peoples and cultures are in this life together, each contributing an essential part to the circle we all participate in; that somehow in our diversity, is also our strength; and that the edges between the familiar and the unknown are not endpoints before a wasteland, but beginnings to something just as beautiful. A respected teacher of mine once told me, “there really is no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ just a bunch of people making different decisions.” In my experience, openly sharing in and participating with other cultural life-ways, is a powerful way to begin understanding about discarding our attachment to the “rightness” of our own decisions, without compromising our own life-way; rather enhancing it.
Many people of many cultures from all around the world come together at CrossRiver and we are not only honored that we can share something of ourselves with them, but are deeply thankful for and respectfully open to all they have to share with us. We see culture as essentially a reflection of humans’ relationship with the land, and part of what we have to share is our life-way with this land in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The indigenous peoples of the world have often, until very recently, been left out of this conversation about the interconnections between culture and nature, but no doubt have much to add to it. Many First Nations peoples from around North America have joined us in this sharing at CrossRiver, and sometimes by offering or donation only with respect to proper cultural protocols (see more about offerings and donations here). We are committed to encouraging an awareness in our lives through the empowerment of diverse life-ways, community gatherings, and inter-cultural sharing opportunities within the natural world. These opportunities could include wilderness skills, community retreats, and inter-cultural conferences that can together point towards our own relationships and life-ways in this diverse and multicultural world—perhaps, even, offer insight into decisions where, in response to the opening quotation, giving and receiving have an equal opportunity to pass both ways.
Troy Patenaude, September 2007