Crocus Blooms and Bison Dung: Nurturing Relationships and Projects at Rise

Story Shared by Patti Derbyshire

Having observed and celebrated Earth Day earlier this month and with the coming of spring — sooner for some than others, I was giving a think to the idea of practical sustainability in my role at Rise. Incorporating land kindship into my day-to-day at Rise is second nature. For this I thank Elder Frank Weasel Head (Miiksskim), Elder Blair First Rider, Jon Corbett, Dr. Alannah Young, Dr. Eduardo Jovel, and many peers and friends for their teachings. Importantly, I thank the land as a teacher; from an early age, I found the land a friendly companion.  

There is a bit of a cycle with our relationships and projects at Rise that follow a natural rhythm. The ‘spring’ in our relationships include getting to know one another, organizational cultures and gaining a sense of where clients are on their Reconciling journey. The image of the crocus, a delicate purple and one of the first flowers that bloom on Siksikaitsitapii/the prairies comes to mind. As I have learned over the years, the crocus is a signal of both new beginnings and much more to come. Crocus bloom in patches, here and there, often surrounded by brown grasses that have yet to warm up from the winter.  

As the summer unfolds, distinct parts of our relational and project landscapes start to come to life. Each relationship is unique but through sharing and discovery, for example, we learn about the people, functional teams and interconnected workplace ecosystems that exist or already established. Through dialogue and nurturing, often delivered through learning and development sessions, others see or can imagine new capacities and commitments for the first time. What has been dormant, have the conditions to start to flourish under the guidance of working groups. Bison and their ‘fertilizer’ come to mind, LOL, rich in nutrients and much needed for thriving systems. Hearing the Truths of the attempted cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and elsewhere, like water and oxygen, is absolutely necessary for balanced growth.  

Into the fall, projects outcomes and relationships become heartier and stronger. What we have heard and noticed transforms to commitments, plans, relationship development with Indigenous community, resources and action, or all the above as an understanding of complex systems come into focus. Early in my days at Rise I reached out to our Elder Council who shared that the Protocol guidance, processes and resources for Reconciling are there, and are on offer like berries to harvest and share. We look towards new cycles, implementation and celebration of all that has been accomplished and the work ahead. And, as we move from fall to winter, it is often time to turn back inside the organization or outward to share and encourage the stories of what has been learned, what is next, and how to prepare for and balance the work ahead.  

When we are incredibly fortunate, we enter that next natural cycle with clients or meet others setting out on their pathway. With humility, we continue to observe, listen and receive advice ourselves; we work at that invasive species, colonial harm in our own systems. It is awful and persistent. Yet we try our best to embody right relationship and demonstrate our values, changing even our own systems humbly and with awareness. 

So, for my part, sustainability at work is not exactly recycling or being mindful of my carbon footprint – although these things are centred at Rise. Instead, sustainability can be viewed as a careful noticing of the flow, the inhale and exhale of the work and attempts to be a balancing force with others.