05 Dec Standing Rock, Empowerment and Learning
Sunday, Dec 4 was important in the history of peaceful resistance in the USA. The halting of the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock is a major victory for Native Americans. Hopefully this will be a decisive one and will not be overturned by the in-coming Republican Administration.
When reading about the indigenous people and their extensive efforts to protect their land, culture and languages, I reflected on this action and the protest action of others before and what prompts people to do this. There are, of course, many reasons why people are involved in mass action and peaceful resistance. One of the conclusions I had revolved around people feeling empowered by and committed to the reasons for the action, the implications if they do nothing and what this means for their daily lives and that of their children and generations to come.
This is a powerful force – being empowered to recognize right from wrong, to analyze the situation, work towards collective action and being committed to seeing this to the end. Empowerment is the result of being informed, educated and having all the facts. Empowerment is also about self-belief, belief in the right to act to protect the self, the family and the community. The action of the protestors of Standing Rock is a testament to this belief and being empowered.
I concluded that empowerment through education, being informed and believing in collective action is something that we should be working towards in our education systems. If we consider the notion of essential skills (what others consider 21st century skills), something that has become important in the way education is being reshaped globally, we can see elements of these skills in the protest actions of indigenous people. Skills in leadership, collaboration, problem solving, as well as qualities like being socially & culturally aware and being persistent in the face of adversity are all part of the set of skills needed. Building lifelong learning opportunities that provide essential skills is a small but important step in assisting people and communities to find their “voice” (language skills) and tools to navigate life and work.
Perhaps we need to take the proverbial leaf from indigenous culture and recognize that some of what we are trying to achieve with our focus on essential skills is already embedded in many of our cultures and practices. It is about being empowered and confident to use these qualities and skills that we find in the cultures that make up the world.