Indigenous values are central to the mission and programs of Woodbine Ecology Center. Although there is no single indigenous culture, there are common threads in the traditions of native peoples of the Americas that are worth remembering and integrating into our work. We believe that many indigenous values can assist us in addressing the fundamental social and ecological issues of our times and they directly inform our guiding principles. In particular, the indigenous values we look to are:
The Seventh Generation Principle. This principle states that we should make decisions about how we live today based on how our decisions will impact the future seven generations. We must be good caretakers of the earth, not simply for ourselves, but for those who will inherit the earth, and the results of our decisions. This value is found in the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Great Law of Peace (Gayanashagowa) and is common among a number of indigenous peoples in the Americas. We believe it is a sound principle, and it guides our policies and practices.
Walking Softly on the Earth. Long before contemporary terms like "carbon footprint," "green economy," and "sustainability" were in common usage, indigenous peoples believed in living in respectful balance with all life. Numerous indigenous languages reflect this philosophy of life. Mitakuye oyasin (Lakota), nogomaq (Algonquian), gakina-awiiya (Anishinabe) all mean the same thing: that we must understand our relationship to all of life, and try our best to live in balanced relationship to life. Prior to engaging in potentially harmful activities, we must consider the long-term effects on the land, the water, the air, the animals and birds, and plants, and act accordingly.
Respect, Humility, and Tolerance. Although respect, humility, and tolerance are not uniquely indigenous values, in the context of Woodbine's mission, they are essential and extremely useful. In the fundamental laws or principles of most indigenous societies, from the Haudenosaunee to the Lakota to the Navajo, respect is integral to healthy and balanced relationships. In our relations with the environment, with our community, or in our personal lives, without self-respect and respect for others, we doom ourselves to imbalance, mistrust, and resentment. With respect, we appreciate the interconnection of all life and our indispensable part in the circle of life. With humility and tolerance, we appreciate that we are all in a constant quest for great understanding, wisdom, and contentment with ourselves and with life around us.
The lessons that allow us to more fully integrate these indigenous values into our lives, and into the programs at Woodbine, emerge from the total environment around us-and from the experiences and the insights that we bring to Woodbine's vision.