I had the great pleasure of hearing Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation at a conference this week on the topic of Aboriginal education and business. He passionately shared his experiences of the changes in his community that he has been a part of during the ten terms he has served as Chief. His story is truly inspiring – the band proudly operates a vineyard, a winery, a golf course, a conference centre, among other things. He has been central in creating economic prosperity that has benefited the community in many, many ways.
One of the statements he made was that when people talk about emotional, spiritual and physical health, that he thinks at the centre of that all should be a dollar sign.
At first, this statement shocked me a bit. But then I realized, he wasn’t really saying money was all that was needed. In fact, he argued that welfare is one of the worst things that ever happened to his people. What he was talking about was the ways that economic prosperity can impact people. He talked about the pride that he sees on the teenager’s faces when they earn their first paycheck. He described the sense of purpose that the community has in creating something amazing that draws the world to it’s doorstep. He talked about the ways these initiatives have brought people together. He talked about the feeling of pride in being independent and self-sufficient. In creating your own future and destiny.
He was talking about belonging.
He was talking about how emotional, spiritual and physical health comes from people meeting their basic needs.
It made me reflect on the neediest students I have worked with. Have I at times contributed to their feelings of inadequacy by doing too much for them in the name of “helping”? Are there ways that I could instead have created opportunities for them to take control of their own lives, and feel pride in their achievements? To feel that they are a part of a group that is doing something important together? To become strong and independent people?
How can we do a better job of this with our students?