April Charlo, a language revitalist from Montana, USA, shared with the public her insights on how foreign, European concepts of ownership have been so deeply ingrained in our general culture, that we (and she) could actually be changing the future of her cultural values, by accidentally placing meaning into words, that didn't actually exist a couple hundred years ago, in the culture of her peoples.
"My mom" doesn't mean you own or possess your mom. It means you have a relationship with her.
In the traditional language of her neighbour's ancestors, there were no words to claim ownership over the natural world. And in fact, there may not have been any words to claim "ownership" of anything at all.
What struck me most about her revelation and further contemplations, goes back to the essence of language and how it is a doorway into and mirror of, one's cultural views and values.
The word "water" in her this native tongue, had the word(s) "to ask" for it's root.
To ask, means "water".
As April points out, this points to the underlying recognition that these people understood that our lives are not sustainable without water, and thus it is a gift, or something we must "ask" for, in order to live.
As I contemplate this further and bring it back to her closing statement around how she might teach her daughter differently about the concept of "owning" a bug. Instead of agreeing with her daughter who says "My bug", she would redirect her daughter's relationship to the bug with a new type of acknowledgement. "Wow, what a beautiful connection you're having with that bug", she might say.
As I contemplate this further, it is simple to see how we can mistake connection with ownership.
In "connection" there is a certain experience of union, or uniting, with another being.
That uniting or union, if taken with an ego-centric view, can turn into ownership.
Connection--- Union ---- Owning
Connection, honors that there is relationship.
Union, honors that there are "two as one".
Owning creates a hierarchy of that connection and union, often removing any validation of the other's experience as meaningful, thus becoming one-sided.
Question: What are your thoughts on ownership and how does this topic of ownership of living and non-living things play in your personal life?
Contemplating this, I notice a deep sense of freedom when I let go of the idea of saying "my water", for example. A feeling of reverence and appreciation immediately emerges for me. Immediately a new type of relationship takes place. Not only do I feel a sense of connection with the water that I drink, but become aware of the connectedness of all water, and soon after, all things in relationship to that water.
While there are aspects of ownership which I can appreciate, I prefer the word "connection". "I have a connection to this couch and these ornaments. I feel cozy and safe when I am here". or "I have a connection to this table stand. I worked hard and I have many memories of what it took to earn the funds to purchase it".
I will take April's sentiments towards "connection" over "ownership" and contemplate it in my daily life. It feels very empowering to reframe my thinking.
Classroom Assignment October 1st, 2019
Cree Language with William Cook