Everyone has what is known as a world view. That perspective is how people make sense of everything around them.
“Your world view is your lens,” said Jerry Nagel, adding it is based on where one comes from, the people in one’s life and the events that unfold during a lifetime.
A world view is how people perceive other people, and, for many, seeing people who are different in any way means keeping one’s distance.
For generations in the Redwood area, two very distinct world views have existed in the people who call it home.
There are those who are of western European descent, whose focus is on the individual.
Others, called native or indigenous people, place much more of a priority on community.
Nagel was in Redwood Falls Jan. 17 to meet with people of both groups in a shared conversation in an attempt to help close the gap that exists between them.
That conversation was the next step in a process that began in December when Nagel hosted two conversations in the area – one with the people of Redwood Falls (those of European descent) and one with the people of the Lower Sioux community (Native Americans). The intent of the initial meetings was to have each group define itself and its priorities in an effort to find common ground when the two groups came together.
Nagel was brought in by the Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC), which worked with the Blandin Foundation to secure funding to help make the meetings possible.
The Blandin Foundation conducted a study of Redwood County that incorporated a number of data points, and during that study those conducting it concluded one of the issues that needed to be addressed for the area to move forward successfully was to address the elephant in the room – the tension that existed between the two distinct cultures.
More than 30 people representing both cultural groups and various walks of life gathered at the Redwood Area Community Center that Tuesday afternoon.
Those attending talked about everything from successful communication experiences that have occurred in the past, as well as the conversations that need to take place in the future.
Nagel was joined by LeMoine LaPointe, and the two facilitated the conversations, as the attendees intermixed to talk about the past, present and future of the two communities.
So, how does one take the next steps toward easing the tensions and working together?
It comes through a mutual understanding of each other, many of the groups said, adding that means a willingness to listen to each other authentically. It is not just about hearing what the other has to say but working hard to really understand the world view of each group.
“It’s about broadening our horizons,” said Alica Whitmore, “and asking good questions.”
Building trust between each other, in an environment of decades where mistrust has been prevalent, means being open to respectful dialogue and engaging conversations, agreed those attending.
“Your world view can change over time,” said Nagel.
LaPointe, added from his perspective that it is important for people today to help break down the walls that exist, not only for today but for future generations.
As one who spent time in his life working with younger people, LaPointe said the way to end misunderstanding and to embrace differences begins when that younger generation sees the older generations doing it.
In order for the progress that has been made to continue also means seeking ways to take those next steps in finding common ground and working collaboratively to achieve common goals.
That type of effort could take various shapes, and a number of ideas were expressed, such as hosting an event where people of different traditions come together to share their culture with others. Others added supporting efforts in education that help students see different cultural perspectives is also an important step to take.
Kara Thul added there are ways that the communities can work together in common interests and efforts by sharing resources and people who have certain areas of expertise from both communities.
Suggestions about family-based projects, those that celebrate the shared history and nature that makes the region unique and food all can help to bring the two cultures together in mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.
Nagel said the Blandin Foundation offers different opportunities in a community dialogue process, with the first phase being the meetings that have already taken place.
The next phase would be to have the two groups come together on an effort that would work to help bring people of both communities together. Funds, added, Nagel, are also available for that next phase.
When asked, the majority of those taking part in the conversation were in favor of continuing the dialogue and coming up with the next steps in the process.
LaPointe compared the ideas that were offered during the conversation to eggs, adding they are only successful if they are hatched. Each community, he added, is like a nest that is now full of these eggs, and it is up to those who are in the nest to help hatch the ideas.
Julie Rath of the RADC will help to coordinate the local effort as the project moves forward, and anyone who is interested in being more involved is encouraged to contact her.