ArtilesWhat is TranscommunalityLetters to the Editor

TWO- THE “WOODSEDGE” THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY/ORGANIZATIONAL BOUNDARIES FOR COOPERATION
We know full well the realities of global society in which people, information, and products move with great fluidity across borders, even while there is often great suffering in that world-wide current of people who face so much peril in seeking sustaining places for themselves and their children.
Certainly, such global border-crossing fluidity is very real as are the borders established by nations—both of which come into collision with each other.
But there are other kinds of boundaries that are not quite the same as national borders. The Haudenosaunee spoke of the “woodsedge” as a boundary of community that required notification and permission for those coming to visit. The woodsedge had no equivalent of barbed wire and guards. It simply marked the part of the forest where the trees ended and the cultivation of the “Three Sisters” corn, squash, and beans, along with many other plants took place, and where the dwellings of the people were located.
Those coming to visit had to stop at the woodsedge. They announced their presence. They explained who they were and why they were requesting permission to enter. Haudenosaunee protocol required a warm welcome for those who respected that boundary and who announced themselves with politeness and courtesy.
Many communities and organizations have such “woodsedges.” They are usually not physical. But they contain many of the same elements of the Haudenosaunee system. An explanation of who one is, of why one is coming to visit, or where one comes from is vital for such communities. I see this with the gang peace grassroots organizations with which I work. Most of them of very open to working with a wide range of allies. However, one must first “knock at the door” and basically ask, with politeness “is there someway in which I can be helpful to that which you do?”
It is then the prerogative of the community or organization to say “come in, let’s talk” OR to say, “thank you but no.” Sometimes particular special events may be occurring that are for the members only. Sometimes they may need to act on their own with no outside help. Respect for woodsedge boundaries requires politeness and a willingness to accept a “no” as well as a “yes.”
But “no” is not the same as “never.” The would-be visitor, who understands that the moment or situation is not right for her or his involvement, is the person who can be called back. The key in that calling back is that respect makes respect.
In demonstrating, this respect, the outsider frees her/himself from the chains of still operating deeply embedded colonialist assumptions that anything and everywhere are open to those with power. Think of-- “Imperialists Without Borders.” Yes, power can force open doors, but only by activating resentment and resistance among those whose ways of being have been violated. To not emulate the colonialist mentalities of breaking down doors (even if done in a seemingly simple non-violent personal way) is an important change as various writers against colonialism (such as Fanon, Memmi, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Guillermo Delgado-P) inform us. Respect for peoples’ autonomy and distinctiveness entails a change from dominant attitudes that have been for so long historically implicated in imperial expansions around the world... It is a change that is usually recognized and appreciated when people see it in action.

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