Reciprocity: Mindfulness in relationships

Erin Halonen is an Educator and the former First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Curriculum Consultant in the Curriculum Implementation and Resources Branch, Alberta Education. Her passion for Education for Reconciliation and Indigenous Ways of Knowing was born through her lived experience with the local Cree First Nations community. Embedded in her work is deep sense of agency to urge the provincial education system to move forward in reconciliatory understanding and action.

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How would relationships look or change if they were kept intentionally? What does a mindful approach to holding relations mean?

Maintaining relationships with the land and it’s inhabitants is the foundation of indigenous worldview. Gifting tobacco, or the practice of giving protocol, in indigenous culture is integral to promoting reciprocity in relationships.

These Alberta grown tobacco plants have found a new home in the Okanagen at the Indigenous World Winery. One plant was gifted for each of the four directions. They will be carefully tended to at the winery now. I gifted the plants in exchange for teachings about the land and Indigenous people of the central Okanagen.

Over time, I have considered the teachings of reciprocity. Practicing reciprocity is not limited to gifts of tobacco, and is not about keeping tabs or counting flavors. Keeping relationships mindfully, for me, has been about considering where I have given too much of myself or conversely not enough. It has been about evaluating where I wasn’t allowing myself to receive and / or when I was allowing actions incongruent to the relational values I want to foster. It is about setting boundaries, maintaining balance and being in a state of gratitude and appreciation.

Gifting tobacco and adherence to traditional protocols has allowed me to continue my work as an indigenous ally. I’m frequently humbled by the support I receive to do this work and recognize that it is made possible by understanding the teachings of reciprocity.I hope to visit the winery again and see how the tobacco plants are enjoying the Okanagen sun!

The winery practices reciprocity as well. Members receive gifts of tobacco and provide a small teaching card with the medicine pouch.

Medicine pouch
Tobacco pouch

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