“There are many roads to the High Place”[i]
The story, as I received it, is about different kinds of leadership and how each has its place and space. First I will provide some context. The Anishinaabe, also called the Ojibwe, people have a clan system that, among other things, helps to identify relationships between families, connections with those newly met, and the teachings – including some of the roles and responsibilities – of an individual’s ancestors, and thus perhaps the individual her or himself. Each clan traditionally has a particular responsibility to the community. The clan system enables and facilitates connections to spirit worlds and with certain kinds of knowledge that lie within each of us. One’s clan or dodem remains an important marker of personal identity, community belonging, potential aptitude, and interactions with traditional teachings.[ii] The story is about the Loon (Maang or Maangag in the plural) and the Crane (Aiijaak or Aiijaakag in the plural). Both Loon and Crane are, in Anishinaabe tradition, leadership clans. Here is the story:
Old Crane had always led the migrations of all the birds, from the south to the north in the spring and from the north to the south in the fall. Crane knew the journey, knew how to reach the destination. He had an infrequent but compelling voice and when he spoke the other birds listened to him. He was trusted, if not always loved.
One summer Loon said that he wanted to lead the migration south. He had been on it enough; he was a leader too; he had good contributions to make to the journey. Crane, practicing the teachings of humility and knowing better than to demand the place of leadership, agreed to step aside and let Loon have his way. Well now, Loon was a community-minded, social creature. He saw that one of the bird families needed to do some last-minute work on the home they lived in during the summer months and the migration got off to a late start. Then, on the journey, a member of a different family said she needed to stop and do something so Loon had the whole flock wait for her. This happened again. And again. Soon the flock was in peril. The trees were redder than they’d ever seen before and the nights were so cold that some birds didn’t survive to the morning. By the time the flock reached its first southern destination, the flock was much smaller than it had been at the start of the journey. The birds left did not want to continue under Loon’s leadership and demanded that Crane take over the journey. Loon argued, but eventually supported the will of the whole. He was left alone to consider what he had brought upon himself and his community. [iii]
Indigenous Leadership in Context
This paper looks at some intersections of Integral Theory – in particular the Quadrant Model – and Indigenous[iv] leadership practices and suggests some approaches to address the challenges and complexities of working alongside, contributing to, or actively participating in Indigenous leadership.
As an Indigenous educator and leader, I am often asked what Indigenous people think about a particular issue, what their customs are in relationship to some circumstance or object, how they respond or can be predicted to respond to certain events, or what structures or systems they might have in place to sustain or change some ways they live in the world. I understand such requests, indeed sometimes invite them. This article is a response to such a question. As an Anishinaabe person, I offer it with humility, recognizing that I do not and cannot speak for all Anishinaabeg and certainly not all Indigenous people. As a person informed by Integral Theory, I recognize that my knowledge is, and always will be, partial. My perspective is affected by my level of consciousness, which of my lines are developed to what strength, which quadrant(s) I consciously or unconsciously privilege, my various types, and even the states I experience as I write this. All of that said, let me start by discussing what surrounds such questions.
“Indigenousness”[v] is a type[vi] – as defined by Integral Theory – created by the social world we humans have created and continue to create. It is, however, a type with many, many elements. Canada’s constitution recognizes three categories of Indigenous (or Aboriginal, as it calls us) people: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. These categories break down into further categories. There are 634 First Nations in Canada, comprising 10 language families, which in turn represent 50 or more languages (Cook and Flynn, 2008, pp. 320-326). Inuit people carry an additional language family that includes two languages (Canada, 2014, ¶6). Métis people have developed at least one language – Michif – (Canada, 2014, ¶9) but there are likely additional languages with hybrid origins amongst Métis groups in Canada. Fifty-three languages, at minimum, represents 53 different ways of perceiving, interpreting, describing, and interacting with the world and thus 53 different evolutions of beliefs, customs, practices, and protocols. Even this, however, does not adequately portray the diversity of Indigenous people in Canada. Indigenous people, as individuals, families, communities, and members of Indigenous Nations, can be sorted according to the depth at which traditional ways are still known and practised; places of residence; personal and family history; education and other social strata and mobility subcategories; degrees of mixed bloodedness; degrees of acculturation; and many other ways of sorting, which include, but are not limited to, gender and gender identity, political perspective, physical and mental ability, and levels of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Furthermore, these categories and subcategories are not separate from each other; they overlap and overlap again until the picture of Indigenous people in Canada begins to look like a dance of prisms, reflecting on and off each other, connected but ever so different.
Despite all the ways we can and should see differences and contrasts amongst Indigenous people, there are many points at which this diversity connects and merges. We Indigenous people are connected to the land. As Anishinaabe writer Brock Pitawanakwat writes: “[t]he relationship between the people and their natural landscape is at the core of Indigenous epistemologies” (Pitawanakwat, 2012, p. 171). We tend to be collectivist and to emphasize the cultural elements of our identities. Navajo Elder Shirley Nelson tells us that “Native…cultures emphasize cooperation and collaboration with everyone in a group for the good of the community or nation” (cited in Archuleta, 2012, 165). This collectivism, groundedness, and focus on collaboration is expressed in the way we learn. Indigenous researcher Michelle Pidgeon describes how Indigenous people, overall, interact with traditional knowledge: “Indigenous ways of knowing reflect the interconnectedness of the physical, emotional, intellectual, and cultural realms and…the interconnected relationships of the individual, family, community and nation…Indigenous knowing is therefore inherently tied to place, connected to and embedded in the land, sea, and air” (Pidgeon, 2012, p. 137). We are also united – and yet at the same time fragmented – by our experience with colonization. Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred writes: “[w]e should begin with an acknowledgement of how weakened Onwekhonwe [original peoples] have become: as a whole we have been dispossessed of land and culture and disempowered as peoples. The main implication of this disintegration of indigenous integrity is the spiritual defeat of our people on an individual level” (Alfred, 2005, p. 40).
So, considering the diversity and the similarities, the strengths and the frailties, the reclamation of Indigenous culture, knowledge, and power contrasted against the shadows of loss, sadness, and dysfunction that so many Indigenous people live within, those who study and/or practice informed leadership, as related to Indigenous people, need to consider what kind or kinds of leadership are needed for the future. Effective Indigenous leadership must value and make room for people to heal. It must facilitate the building or rebuilding of healthy relationships amongst families, communities, and nations, and those with whom the land is now shared. It must support individuals and communities to retrieve, revitalize, and live out the precious traditions and knowledge of their heritage. It must inspire communities – however that is defined in whatever place – to imagine and plan social, cultural, political, and economic stability congruent with particular communities’ values, cultures, and practices, and then provide or enable the expertise that will allow those imaginings and plans come to life.
Indigenous Leadership and Integral Theory
Integral Theory provides a means by which we can envision, map, and then plan to address such complex leadership requirements. It has proven, in many ways, invaluable to my leadership as an Indigenous educator and community contributor. Let me share two examples:
Integralizing My Own Leadership:
I am the Chair and Co-Leader of EyēɁ Sqȃ’lewen: The Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections (hereafter the Centre) at Camosun College in Victoria, BC.[vii] I have been privileged to play a leadership role in the growth and development of the Centre[viii] since its first days as a very small organization with one primary mandate. As it achieved various successes, it grew in scope and the number of its employees expanded. Nevertheless, it remained, for a good many years, small enough and simple enough in structure that usually its members could easily communicate and act upon a shared vision of whole-person services. Eventually, however, the Centre reached both a level of both complexity and a large enough membership that divergent visions of its purpose and values emerged, communications processes changed, and assumptions about who was responsible for what became more scattered. The Centre’s members and external partners became less clear about our mandate and level of authority.
I have come to recognize that this story of development and emergent confusion is quite typical within the larger narrative of organizational development (Schein, 1985; Wheatley, 1999). As circumstances were unfolding, I recognized that it was necessary to address these concerns if we were going to be able to continue to do our good work with students, communities, and the institution. As Indigenous educators and services providers, we were change-makers and it was working. The college was getting ready to shift just as we in the Centre were recognizing that we needed to find a new pathway upon and by which to do our work. It was during this critical time that I was introduced to Integral Theory. I soon recognized that this was a theoretical approach that held space into which I could integrate my Indigenous perspective, values, and practices to frame a personalized leadership philosophy[ix], and develop a w/holistic[x] process by which to map our Centre’s work and organization. While all the elements of Integral Theory can and do now support the kind of work we do, this article will concentrate on the use of the Quadrant Model.
For me as a leader, the Quadrant Model provided a framework in which to check my intentions against my behaviour. Gervase Bushe (2010) writes that “When I judge myself, I do so based on the intentions I have… [b]ut when I judge you, I do it on the basis of the effect you have on me.” (p. 37). The model provided me a map to assess consistency between what I wanted to communicate and what I was communicating through my language or behaviour. I could better see when I was living truth, beauty and goodness and learned to stop being surprised at the reaction I received when I failed to do so. Moreover, mapping interactions through the Quadrant Model helped me to take a slower look at what others’ behaviours or words might mean and to check my perception of social interactions and circumstances. It helped me to ask questions and thus better communicate.[xi]
The Quadrant Model also supported my ability to see, with a different perspective, one of the frustrating aspects of doing minority-culture work within a majority-culture environment. Indigenous people tend to see culture and community as intertwined with and yet separate from larger social systems,[xii] while it seems as though many mainstream educators see culture and community embedded. Wilber (2000, p. 426; 2001, p.86; 2007, p. 374) talks about this embedding as “flatlanding,” when, in the name of truth or reality, the behavioural and systems quadrants reduce, or overwhelm and consume,[xiii] the intentional and cultural quadrants.[xiv] An example of this is the question of how to integrate Indigenous ways into curriculum, or in other words to Indigenize[xv] curriculum. The perspective of one who sees culture as embedded with social systems is that Indigenizing curriculum can be accomplished by inserting Indigenous content into existing curriculum. However, the perspective of one who sees culture as standing alongside systems is that Indigenizing curriculum can be accomplished only when the learner’s worldview shifts enough that he or she can understand and value Indigenous ways of seeing and experiencing the world, as well as the content of the observable.[xvi]
Indigenous education cannot thrive in the flatland. Indeed, opening up all four Quadrants is the only way to create real change in the system in which I work. My learning about the Quadrant Model has provided me a language, a map, and a process by which I can now better communicate this.
I now use a Quadrant lens in all aspects of my leadership at work. It provides me a more complete picture of circumstances. Are the student services providers addressing the personal, cultural, skills development, and systems navigation needs of the students we serve? Are the teaching faculty ensuring that students’ ability to develop personal and cultural meaning is balanced with their more objective learning? Are the project managers articulating values and integrating relationship development into their planning? Are the administrators and other leaders seeing “whole people” as we look at policy development and human resources issues? Are we all respecting, honouring, and nurturing those four elements of our own selves and experiences, and those of each other, as we do our work and interact with each other? These questions align precisely with Indigenous concepts of living in a good way, of recognizing the connections between and among all things, and thus help me to better support those for whom I have leadership responsibilities
Recognizing this, I began developing an Indigenized version of the Quadrant Model to more easily communicate what I had learned, and this led me to the second example shared with you in this article.
Integralizing Community Leadership
I am the community chair for a group called the Aboriginal Nations Education Council (ANED Council).[xvii] We are responsible to provide guidance to the local school district to support Indigenous student success and we do so through the development and review of 5-year-plans called Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements (AEEAs).[xviii] When our first AEEA came up for renewal a few years ago, a group of lay researchers hosted a series of focus groups with interested parties, including students, former students, teachers, parents, and Indigenous community groups and service providers, and collected reports and other information from schools and the province. The results of their work came to the ANED Council table. The data gave us a great deal of information but was complex and often seemed contradictory. It said we should highlight achievement while at the same time prioritizing students’ sense of belonging. It told us that the work being done on cultural awareness was critically important and yet at the same time indicated that students’ integration into the system was the crucial element. In essence, the data indicated that we needed to be focussing on everything at once and one thing at a time. Our members listened to the researchers’ reports and looked at the documentation that had been generated but did not know where to start. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I could see the data all being sorted into a Quadrant Model.[xix] I showed other members of the Council my ideas. Within about three meetings we had together constructed an Indigenized Quadrant Model. This model is readily understood by local Indigenous people because it reflects, by its animal representations, known teachings. It resonates with educators who seek to practice w/holistic teaching because it affords such broad vision. From a practical perspective, it also provides planners and assessors a framework that supports them to define Indigenous student success and measure when and how it is being achieved.
Once the Council developed this model, we were able to move through the data, and include in the final document all the information that had been shared with us (Greater Victoria School District, 2013). We were able to align vision with goals and align those goals with actions and then align those actions with assessment tools.
The Indigenized Quadrant Model provides a means by which the Aboriginal Nations Education Division organizes, assesses, and communicates its work. The division has just submitted its first annual report of the new AEA and is currently in the process of drafting a Cultural Protocol Guide for the school district. Both documents use the Indigenized Quadrant Model as a framework.
Integral Theory is now part of the language and practice of Indigenous education both at the (Victoria) school district level and at Camosun College. Both now have a framework through which w/holistic educational practice and leadership decisions can be made. The Indigenized Quadrant Model enables a clearer vision, a more complete perspective, of the circumstances and environments we inhabit through the various phases of the work we do.
Early on in this article I made mention of the complexities and challenges of working well with Indigenous people and communities, and the visions we have for the future. I talked about what effective Indigenous leadership must involve: that it must facilitate healing, that it must support the development of new or renewed relationships, that it must honour and incorporate traditional culture and heritage, and that it must be inspirational and yet practical. I talked about how the Quadrant Model aspects of Integral Theory have helped me and my colleagues to imagine, frame, and animate the addressing of these needs into my professional and community-based leadership practice.
I believe that the knowledge that is emerging in the places I have discussed in this article can eventually be generalized to support leadership within the greater Indigenous community. I believe that many Indigenous families, communities, and Nations are at a precipice similar to the one I stood at when I started my journey with Integral Theory. Indigenous communities and leaders have accomplished or commenced upon immense amounts of political work, cultural renewal, and healing initiatives. Many people in our communities, especially our young people, can see for themselves possibilities that never existed for their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. Non-Indigenous people and various levels of non-Indigenous government have begun to recognize that reconciliation and the development of different kinds of relationships with Indigenous peoples is not only desirable but necessary.[xx] The possibility of positive change has become tangible. All of this has happened because of individuals’, communities’, and organizations’ vision, hard work, and commitment, and now it is time to take the next steps.
As we move from the possible to the concrete, as we begin a new flight, we have to consider what pathways we will take, what kinds of leadership will be most effective, and when. As we look back at the story of Crane and Loon, we can see in it that there are there are different ways of leading. It is important to note that this story is not about Crane – Aiijaak – being right and Loon – Maang – being a fool. Both continue to be recognized as leaders in Anishinaabe tradition. The message I received from the story is that different circumstances require different kinds of leadership, premised on what is needed, not merely on what the leader knows or desires.
Maang leads with heart. Aiijaak leads with experience. There are many ways of doing both and all have a time and a place. We need to move forward within the circle of Aiijaakag and Maangag, honouring what we already know, honouring what we imagine, and being able to hear those who tell us when, or when not, we are making the best decisions. Integral guidance can help.
Alfred, T. (2005). Wasáse: Indigenous pathways of action and freedom. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview Press.
Archuleta, M. (2012). Approaching leadership through culture, story, and relationships. In Kenny, C. & Fraser, T. N. (Eds.), Living indigenous leadership: Native narratives on building strong communities (pp. 162-175). Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.
Berens, L.V. (December 2013). A meta-model for types: Patterns, polarities, and autopoeiesis. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 8(3 & 4), 19-32).
Bushe, G. R. (2010). Clear leadership: Sustaining real collaboration and partnership at work. (revised ed.). Boston: Davies-Black.
Callahan, K. L. (1998). An introduction to Ojibway culture and history. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.tc.umn.ed~call0031/ojibwa.html.
Camosun College (2013). Inspiring relationships: Indigenization plan. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from http://camosun.ca/learn/school/indigenous-education-community-connections/about/publications.html
Canada. (2014). Aboriginal languages in Canada. Retrieved October 8, 2014 from www.statcan.gc.ca/census.
Cook, E.D. and Flynn, D. (2008). Aboriginal languages in Canada. In O’Grady, W. & Archibald, J. (Eds.), Contemporary linguistic analysis: An introduction. (pp. 318-333). Toronto, Canada: Pearson, Langman.
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Pitawanakwat, B. (2008). Bimaadziwin oodenaang: A pathway to urban nisshnaabe resurgence. In Simpson, L. (Ed.), Lighting the eighth fire: The liberation, resurgence, and protection of indigenous nations (pp. 161-173). Winnipeg, Canada: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
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[i] Callahan (1998), ¶ 4.
[ii] Not all families, in the face of colonization, have been able to hold on to this knowledge but many Anishinaabeg who were not are now engaged in doing the research or other practices to recapture and revitalize this vital aspect of their identities.
[iii]This story is adapted from the story of the crane and the loon in Basil Johnston’s Ojibway Heritage (1976), pp 62-63. I also give credit to the Ojibwe Language Table at the University of Victoria who shared with me stories about birds and leadership in Anishinaabe tradition.
[iv] I use the term “Indigenous” to reference the people who have lived for so long in a land that where there is no oral or written history of them having lived elsewhere, and to reference the teachings or knowledge that have emerged from that people’s experience and interactions with the universes they inhabit. Within this article, reference to Indigenous people tends to refer to the Indigenous people who live in the land currently called Canada and are known to Canada collectively as Aboriginal people, and are sorted by the same into First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.
[v] “Indigenousness” references seeing oneself or being seen as Indigenous. It is not the same as Indigeneity which is one’s Indigenous identity or sense of self which is strengthened by access to and understanding of Indigenous teachings and knowledge, including language.
[vi] Esbjörn-Hargens (2010) references types of kinship systems, including Indigenous peoples or tribes, p. 49. Beyond this, “Indigenousness” may be seen as a meta-model of type, described by Berens (2013) as a “pattern or configuration of interrelated [real and assigned, my comment] characteristics, p. 20.
[vii] EyēɁ Sqȃ’lewen is a Lkwungen word referencing “good heart, good mind, and good spirit.”
[viii] In this article I refer to my workplace as “the Centre” even though we called it “the department” up until this academic year.
[ix] Although not without some struggle; see Simcoe, (in press).
[x] I use “wholistic” to reference the whole, or the truth, of something and “holistic” to reference the holy, or that which is sacred within ourselves and our relationships. Within this usage, wholistic approaches emerge from the behavioural and systems fit quadrants, while holistic approaches emerge from the intentional and cultural quadrants. When I want to write about both I use wholistic/holistic or w/holistic.
[xi] See Schein, 2013. Although Schein does not use or reference Integral Theory in this book on improved communication in the workplace, my understanding of Integral Theory helped me understand and develop strategies to implement his recommendations.
[xii] I do not know whether this was always the case, but expect that it was not, that our recognition of the differences between cultures and systems emerged from the fact that most of us, particularly in the last 100 or so years, have lived our lives in two worlds. See Little Bear, 2000.
[xiii] Wilber does not refer to the process of flatlanding as “overwhelming” or “consuming,” but this is my read as a person who, because of my Indigeneity, has experienced colonization.
[xiv] As Integral scholars know, the flatland is more than the reduction of the Left-Hand quadrants into the Right-Hand quadrants. It is also the process of denying or ignoring ascension and descension (depth) and seeing only the horizontal (scan). Wilber discusses this at some length in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (2000), pp. 425-440. A simple metaphor for the privileging of the scan is a garden of peas and carrots. We honour the peas for spreading out, and for us being able to observe that spreading. We can recognize without looking too deeply that they are good food. We ignore the value of the carrots, whose gifts are in the depth, and acknowledge them only for the green bitter parts that may show above the soil. All that said, the depth/scan part of the discussion of flatland is related to the Levels elements of Integral Theory. The discussion of an Indigenized Levels model will come from me sometime in the future.
[xv] Camosun College’s definition of Indigenization is the “process by which Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing, and relating are incorporated into educational, organizational, cultural and social structures” (Camosun College, 2013, p. 6).
[xvi] This is the premise of TELŦIN TŦE WILNEW (the SENĆOŦEN phrase meaning “Understanding Indigenous People”), the course on Indigenization taught by Corrine Michel at Camosun College.
[xvii] This council represents Indigenous parents; other Indigenous community interests; teachers and staff working in Aboriginal Nations Education, the division that houses Indigenous education services; Elders; school district administrators; and the local Board of Trustees (known in many other districts as the School Board).
[xviii] The province of British Columbia requires that all School Districts submit AEAs every five years and report on them annually.
[xix] The artwork for the Indigenized Quadrant Model was provided by N’amgis artist Jamin Zuroski. Its copyright is held by the Aboriginal Nations Education Division and it may not be reproduced without permission.
[xx] This is still emergent work; it is by no means accomplished but there is greater possibility than ever before that relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and governments will eventually become more balanced and healthy.
About the Author
Janice Simcoe is Anishinaabe and a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia and is the Chair and Co-Leader of EyēɁ Sqȃ’lewen: The Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections at Camosun College. She is also a dedicated community leader and chairs or co-chairs a number of Indigenous education planning councils and advisory boards representing both local and province-wide interests. In addition, she sits on Boards of Directors of two Indigenous community agencies. Janice holds a BA in History from the University of Victoria and an MA in Leadership from Royal Roads University. She is blessed with a supportive and engaged spouse and a wise and curious daughter.