Wampums and Watersheds: On the Path of Restoration


May’s DwD explored a shared inquiry led by Kevin Best (Indigenize or Die, Friends of the Seventh Generation) in the indigenous style of a talking circle dialogue, with nearly 25 participants present.  The talking circle is ancient mode that respects the primacy of each individual’s authentic voice and contribution. Following an opening ceremony and context-setting by Kevin, an eagle feather is passed clockwise for each to share in response, or pass. In the spirit of deep attention and open listening, an hour passed on one cycle of the feather in the circle.

The context of the session was that of the opportunity to learn and necessity to act from the principles of indigenous ecological knowledge. The Canadian  and treaty rights to stewarding the land and water as the necessary prerequisites to ensure the continuity of life, for the young and all creation. Indigenous care of the land has traditionally been organized around watersheds, as recognized in the wampum and treaties that predate colonization.

In this session we explore how water will show us the way to a sustainable future for all life on this planet, by changing our actions toward love and doing no harm. Applying this idea is a process of decolonization and reindigenization which provide a basket for all the life-affirming efforts of people working for a more just, compassionate society. The UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People) codifies the rights which, if respected, could transform the current cancer of patriarchal capitalism which threatens life itself.

Informed by indigenous as well as current ecological science, we explored how to move from “good theories” to a practice of the heart towards a just, equitable, sustainable society. By embracing the life-affirming ways embodied in Mino Bimaadziwin ( the “good life” which existed here prior to colonization), we can follow the path of restoration which offers hope for a positive future.

Particpants from around Toronto and the world participated, including visiting scholar Mieke van der Bijl from University of Technology, Sydney Australia, who subsequently wrote a thoughtful post “How (Western) Values and Ways of Knowing Drive Social Innovation.”

“When it comes to complex societal issues we tend to use our reasoning skills, but, as the facilitator mentioned ‘we cannot think our way out of this mess’. How can we start including more of our hearts then in social innovation? The other important lesson I took away from the session was our connection to nature, and the ways of knowing embedded in nature. The key question was: how can we let nature guide us?”

These questions continue to live in the hearts of participants, a sustaining conversation that thrives between people until we meet again.


Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed descent he identifies as Anishinabeg of the Marten Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. A division of this, The Integrated Community Development Group applies this approach in non-native communities helping them effect the cultural change required to achieve a post-carbon economy.

Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities.