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The Struggle for Cultural Diversity

I want to talk about the need for cultural diversity as well as biological diversity, and the need to look holistically at the problem. First, I want to talk about something from our own culture, which is the Anishinabe culture, the Algonquin culture. We have an economic system, a whole value system, and part of that value system—part of our whole way of living—is a concept called reciprocity.

When I go out and I harvest wild rice up on our lakes in Northern Minnesota, on our reservation, I bring tobacco, saymah, and I put the tobacco out. I make an offering when I go out to harvest, and then I collect different things from the land. We do the same thing when we go out hunting—when we go out hunting, whether its for wapsh or atuk, rabbit or deer, all the different parts of the creation, we give something in order to get something back from the creation. We have a reciprocal agreement, and this confirms our relationship to the creation—we're a part, an integral part of the creation. We're an integral part of the ecosystem in our areas. Reciprocity is an essential part of our value system, which is very contrary to the industrial value system and the industrial society in the United States.

The industrial system is based on capitalism, and essentially the mainstay of capitalism is that you put things like labor and capital and resources together for the purpose of accumulation—you take more than you need. That is the whole essence of capitalism, to accumulate more than you need. In contrast, the essence of our relationship to the creation, the essence of reciprocity, is that we take only what we need.

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Cultural Diversity      |       Vol. 1 No. 2      |     Summer 1990