Reconnecting the Wisdom Within: Developing Cultural Sensitivity in the 21st Century

The Seeds of Native Health Campaign has chosen a deliberate strategy of reaching out to the agriculture, food, nutrition and public health disciplines to join in the work of solving the dietary health crisis in Indian Country. Healthful measures of deliberation and care are needed. Deliberation is needed because while significant cultural differences between Western/Eurocentric and Indigenous conceptions of the world have always existed, most academic disciplines have not developed strategies or methodologies that might effectively interface and bridge these cultural differences. Care is needed because these intercultural dynamics are further complicated by a difficult history of colonization. A major problem here is that most of us as academic professionals were trained to see and represent our disciplines as holding universal truths. We seldom recognize the truths and knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples. We seldom, if ever, represent our disciplines or position our expertise as cultural constructions. Unlike many academic approaches, my own experience in community and crosscultural engagement represents the starting point for my scholarship and teaching, as well as for this publication. Consistent with my own experience, agriculture, food, nutrition and public health disciplines still lack strategies, methodologies and pedagogies to develop capacity for engaging, interfacing and bridging Indigenous Peoples systems of thought. Openness to what Indigenous Peoples might have to offer is still largely missing from professional training. 


Craig A. Hassel


University of Minnesota Extension