A photo of trees in the  Saskatoon Afforestation area.

Benefits to involving diverse cultural perspectives in projects

By: Julia Adamson, Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas December, 2023

Forming respectful relationships between cultures takes time. It’s a process that requires patience, open communication, and a genuine willingness to understand and learn from one another. Cultural exchange and collaboration aren’t instantaneous; they involve building trust, breaking down stereotypes, and acknowledging historical contexts that shape each perspective.

Forming deep and respectful relationships sets the foundation for meaningful and sustainable partnerships. Not only does it lay the groundwork for effective collaboration, it ensures that all parties involved feel heard, respected, and genuinely engaged in the project’s goals.

Through work on the Miyo-wāhkōhtowin /Good Relations in Afforestation Areas GPS Interpretive App, the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas (FSAA) identified a number of ways the Indigenous input improved the project:

1) Enrichment of Insights: Integrating other cultural perspectives brings a wealth of insights, wisdom, and knowledge that can greatly enrich a project. Different cultures hold unique understandings of history, nature, and human interactions that can contribute to a more comprehensive and holistic approach.

2) Respect and Inclusivity: Involving other cultural perspectives is a demonstration of respect and inclusivity. It acknowledges that decisions and initiatives should not be made in isolation, but with the input and participation of the communities that will be affected. This approach fosters an environment of mutual understanding and collaboration.

3) Cultural Preservation and Sharing: Incorporating other cultural perspectives aids in the preservation and sharing of cultural heritage and contributes to the safeguarding of traditions, stories, and practices that might otherwise fade away. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and learn from cultural richness.

4) Holistic Understanding: Different cultures often have distinct ways of viewing the world and interpreting landscapes. Involving other cultural perspectives allows for a more holistic understanding of the environment and its history. This can lead to more informed decision-making and a well-rounded project outcome.

5) Promotion of Reconciliation: Engaging with other cultural perspectives can be a powerful step towards Reconciliation, especially in contexts where historical injustices have taken place. It demonstrates a commitment to addressing past wrongs, fostering understanding, and working towards healing and unity.

6) Community Engagement and Ownership: When communities are actively engaged and their perspectives are integrated, they develop a sense of ownership and pride in the project. This can lead to increased community involvement, a higher level of support, and sustainable outcomes.

7) Innovation and Creativity: Different cultural perspectives can bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions to the table. Collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds sparks creativity and encourages the development of new approaches that might not have been considered otherwise. Conventional interpretation may stem solely from a colonial mindset or point of view.

8) Learning and Growth: Working with other cultural perspectives is a valuable learning opportunity for all parties involved. It broadens horizons, challenges assumptions, and nurtures personal and organizational growth.

9) Long-term Impact: Projects that are sensitive to, and reflective of, different cultural perspectives are more likely to have a positive and lasting impact. They contribute to the overall betterment of communities and environments in a sustainable manner.

10) Alignment with Global Goals: Incorporating diverse cultural perspectives aligns with global goals of promoting cultural diversity, inclusivity, and sustainable development. It demonstrates a commitment to broader ideals beyond immediate project goals.

In essence, involving other cultural perspectives is not just a checkbox but a commitment to fostering a more inclusive, respectful, and harmonious society. It adds depth, value, and relevance to projects and lays the foundation for positive change that resonates with a broader audience.

Reprinted, with minor-adjustments, with permission from the FSAA.