Ethical Space and Ethical Relationality

At this year’s forum, the concepts of ethical space and ethical relationality will guide our diverse university community to actively listen and respectfully converse with each other, to consider the varying convergent and divergent points, orientations, and perspectives; in this way, complexity is experienced and value for potentially dynamic synergies is cultivated.

The “ethical space” is formed when two societies, with disparate worldviews, are poised to engage each other. It is the thought about diverse societies and the space in between them that contributes to the development of a framework for dialogue between human communities. […] The new partnership model of the ethical space, in a cooperative spirit between Indigenous peoples and Western institutions, will create new currents of thought that flow in different directions…and overrun the archaic ways of interaction. 

– Willie Ermine (2007). The Ethical Space of Engagement: Indigenous Law Journal, 6(1), 193–203.

Ethical relationality is an ecological understanding of human relationality that does not deny difference, but rather seeks to more deeply understand how our different histories and experiences position us in  relation to each other. This form of relationality is ethical because it does not overlook or invisibilize the particular historical, cultural, and social contexts from which a particular person understands and experiences living in the world. It puts these considerations at the forefront of engagements across frontiers of difference”.

– Dwayne Trevor Donald (2009). Forts, Curriculum, and Indigenous Métissage: Imagining Decolonization of Aboriginal-Canadian Relations in Educational Contexts: First Nations Perspectives, 2(1), 1-24.

Talking Circles

The suggested format for the forum’s interactive conversations is the Talking Circle, which is founded on the principles of equality and inclusivity, and encourages understanding and connection through respectful dialogue, listening, reflection and co-creation.

Guidelines for Online Talking Circles (inspired by Our Words, Our Ways: Teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learners):

  • The circle symbolizes completeness. Participants will speak in the order noted by the conversation facilitator, who can move around the room in a circular fashion.
  • Participants in turn will have the opportunity to share their thoughts without interruption.
  • Everyone belongs and everyone’s contribution is equally important.
  • While not the active speaker, others have the responsibility to listen in a non-judgemental way.
  • All remarks should address the conversation topic/issue, not the comments made by other participants.
  • Participants are free to express themselves in a variety of ways, such as sharing a story, a personal experience, examples or metaphors. When your turn comes around, it is acceptable to pass if you prefer to stay silent.


Witnessing is evident in many cultures, and is done in many ways. Throughout the day, Witnesses will be moving between the conversation circles, listening for themes and provoking ideas. The four Witnesses will share their stories at the end of the forum as a retelling and interpretation of what they felt, saw and heard. The college Witness stories will be shared in written form in the forum report.

At Stó:lö cultural gatherings, the Spokesman lets the guests know that it is time to pay attention to the activities by saying, “My dear ones, our work is about to begin.” Usually, the cultural work is witnessed by the guests through the oral tradition, which includes speech, story, and song.

– Jo-Ann Archibald (2008). Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit, 3-4.