All My Relations: The Interconnectedness of Everything
Image: All My Relations plaque at Merrymakedge, Kejimkujik, photographed in June 2015. The double curve pattern, traditional to Wabanaki cultures, indicates balanced lifelong relationships (D. Hupfield, personal communication, May, 2015.)
All My Relations is a phrase that reminds us that everything is connected. It is important to protect the water because it is part of us and we cannot harm plants or animals because we are connected to them; they are our medicines, our teachers, and our sustenance.
All My Relations is stated Msit No’kmaq in Mi’kmaq, Mitakuye-Oyasin in Lakota, Wahkohtawin (p. 3) in Cree, and Nindinawemaganidog in Anishinaabemowin. It is expressed in the Mohawk Thanksgiving Address – Ohen’:ton Karihwate’hkwen – that has been recited for thousands of years.
Tewa scholar Gregory Cajete (2005) describes this concept as it relates to education:
“Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all related) is a Lakota phrase that captures an essence of tribal education because it reflects the understanding that our lives are truly and profoundly connected to other people and the physical world…Indigenous education is at its very essence learning about life through participation and relationship to community, including not only people but plants, animals, and the whole of nature.”
When considering All My Relations as a pedagogical approach, cross-curricular practices make sense. Rich learning experiences that nurture innovative thinking emerge when teachers work together, within supportive relationships, to facilitate an understanding of a shared topic or experience across different subject areas. Everything is connected.
Nyle Johnston shares the concept of All My Relations in an explanation of the stories that are present in his art work which is currently on exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Johnston expands on the theme of interconnectedness in his land acknowledgment, featured on the Whose Land app which helps users locate Indigenous communities in their areas, and understand particular treaty agreements and traditional world views of the areas we inhabit.
By learning about the traditional knowledge of the territories that we occupy, we can learn how to break our complicity with settler colonialism. In the first episode of their new podcast “In Conversation with Isaac and Christi”, Belcourt and Murdoch reflect on how the concept of All My Relations prevails against destructive resource extraction industries.
Cajete, G. (2005). American Indian Epistemologies. New Directions for Student Services, 109, Spring. 69-77. p.70.
Download a question sheet for students to use with this page here.