Morning Star by Alex Janvier (Creative Commons)

Economic Reconciliation

What is Indigenous Well-being?

December 06, 2020

Since participating in the Well-being Economies Alliance Canada hub (WE All CAN) and reading the BC Assembly of First Nations discussion paper on Centering First Nations Concepts of Wellbeing: Toward a GDP-Alternative Index in British Columbia, I have been even more true to my work of Economic Reconciliation, regionally and, hopefully, nationally. As this thinking and knowing, fully and truly supports the idea of economic reform, with the respect, acknowledgment, and commitment to ground this ‘new economy’ in Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Albeit, it really isn’t a new way of thinking and being in economy for us, but is just a way of knowing and being as Indigenous Peoples.

As we were invited to “imagine what paradigm shift might be required to transform Turtle Island’s economic ‘operating system’ as well as the action-enhancing architecture that would support the emergence of a new economic purpose” (WE ALL CAN Design Lab). As well as the discussion paper requests, us to question: Are we meaningfully measuring our collective and individual wellbeing in British Columbia using GDP? Are Indigenous values reflected in BC’s official economic numbers? We sit in the space of pondering, visioning, questioning, thinking, reflecting, and most notably, leading ourselves and others towards, something greater than oneself, and more for the collective well-being of all living things of mother earth.

Through my participation in this work and through my own work in developing a regional Economic Reconciliation Framework with SFU CED, I articulated my Indigenous worldview, lens, values, epistemology, etc. as best I could, given the space in which to share. I also questioned whose worldview, lens, values, epistemology, knowing, etc. will be used to create this ‘new economy’? Whose concept of wealth and well-being would be articulated to demonstrate this new thought leadership process?

The following paragraph from Centering First Nations Concepts of Wellbeing Toward A GDP-Alternative Index In BC reflects well my understanding of Indigenous well-being:

As Indigenous citizens, we already know that the definition of a good life goes beyond a mere GDP formula. Our communities are made “richer” by clean air, regenerative wild fisheries and forests, socially healthy families, the passing-down of cultural values and language, excellent education, respect for traditions that value Elders and living Indigenous knowledge, a responsive health care system, and a natural environment that sustains our collective wellbeing and species.

-Centering First Nations Concepts of Well-beinG: Toward a GDP-Alternative Index in BC (2020)

Some aspects of our knowing is not articulated here and needs to be shared, like education needs to be land based because without a connection to it, how can you learn to sustain and be a guardian of it? You cannot master language, culture, traditional teachings, practices, etc. without being out on the land either. Rites of Passage, finding one’s power (discipline, responsibility, resilience, self-knowledge, identity, etc.) are found through hard work on the land, hunting, gathering, in ceremony, in community, and being of service for your people. I can only truly show you what’s in my heart by having you participate in a Potlach or Ceremony in my communities. How do we express that in the current limitations of our knowing, language barriers, and the limitations of other human’s not being in the space as we are?

So much can be lost in translation. So much already has. How do we create balance through two eyed seeing, learning, and sharing for all in this work? Well as a spiritual being, this comes out in the pure love and light I bring in to all the work I do personally and professionally. My intention has already been set, for the vision and legacy I want for my son and my unborn grandchildren. The universe is listening and I just have to share, for it to resonate beyond my being. This is how I speak as Transformative Storyteller, Chief, mother, wife, friend, etc.

It’s all about what’s in our hearts and our true intention for what we want to see for the greater well-being of all things. It’s going beyond yourself, to know that your power is so great that it can influence energy, and create a new reality. Well-being is in our souls, spirits, hearts and the goodness we bring to our lives, our families, community and to all living creatures. To be willing to move outside of yourself, your comfort zone, your knowing, and be willing to explore and accept something bigger than who and what you are currently are. It’s about forgiveness, healing, empathy, equity, equality, reconciliation, trust, relationships, and truth.

Well-being is about being in space together for the collective wellness for everyone and everything. It’s about community and our connectedness through the relationships we create and harness together. It’s in our word, Yuusténam̓ut cht (Yo-STUN-ah-moat chit), which means “we take care of ourselves” in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh language and the Kwakwaka'wakw phrase ‘Namwayut, which means “we are all one” and so many other Indigenous words and phrases across our territories regionally and nationally that translate into our collective wellness.

Our future, and the well-being of all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today. 

-- Chief Dr. Robert Joseph