Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations) at AASHE 2015
On Sunday, October 25th, those attending AASHE at the Minneapolis Convention Center had the unique opportunity to engage with hundreds of sustainability-focused students and speakers from around the country. The University of Minnesota had diverse and engaged representation from many participants.
One of those speakers was Francis Bettelyoun, a longtime master gardener at the University of Minnesota. He oversees the Medicine Wheel Garden on the St. Paul campus and helps to educate those who help tend it. Bettelyoun brought the profound yet gentle Lakota concept of mitakuye oyasin to AASHE this year. Paraphrased from his description, mitakuye oyasin means,
“I don’t see you, the plants, or the animals as anything but my relative. As best as I can, I will come without judgment and ego. I will come with unconditional love.”
– Francis Bettelyoun
He went on to describe how there needs to be a major societal reversion back to living naturally. Stating that every U.S. citizen uses approximately 48,000 lbs. of natural resources per year, Bettelyoun stressed that materialism is destroying Mother Earth and that a restored sense of place is necessary to save Her. This can be accomplished by every individual doing what they can to live off of the land and provide their own food from their own native soils. Community gardens are an excellent way to fulfill that step in returning to Mother Earth.
While community gardening still might not be plausible for everyone, Bettelyoun urges that steps can still be taken to decolonize oneself. Be intentional, he said to the rapt audience. He reiterated that every individual determines their role in the greater sustainability fabric when they choose where to shop and what to eat.
In his closing statements, Bettelyoun told all of those in attendance that accepting cultural differences is how great strides can be made in sustainability. He reminded the audience that while each of them are learners, they are teachers as well.
His perspective served as a strong moment for cultural reflection that audience members surely returned to throughout the remainder of the AASHE programming. Bettelyoun can be found educating students about food sovereignty at the Minnesota Native American Medicine Gardens between March and October.