Sagebrush Social Praxis: Behind the Name
Tansi and hello! My name is Devonn Drossel, and I am one of the founders of Sagebrush Social Praxis. With a name as long as ours, I thought it would be worthwhile to take some time to explain why we chose it.
Here’s some background context: Sagebrush Social Praxis was founded on Treaty 7 Territory in the area known by the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot peoples) as Mohkínstsis, or Calgary. If you’re unfamiliar with Treaty 7, its history, and the significance of it to this region, click here to learn more about it via the Blackfoot Crossing website. Treaty 7 was signed in 1877 and is still of great significance and importance today to all who live here.
Recognition of Treaty 7 and the land we are on is important to us for many reasons. After listening to many First Nations Elders and scholars speak about Treaty it became clear to me that underpinning all such agreements is a spirit of reciprocity and relationship-building. As Chelsea Vowel, a Métis writer and educator states, Treaty-making is “not about property… it is about a series of relationships…with your human kin [and] with plants and animals.” Establishing Treaty comes with rules that guide how we interact with one another – human and non-human alike. For us at Sagebrush Social Praxis, Treaty 7 serves as an important reminder of the history of relationship-building on this land, and our responsibility to honour those relationships.
It is also our belief that good relationship with the land and its inhabitants is imperative for lasting environmental and social change. Land in its many forms is a constant that runs through the lives of every person on this planet, and good relationships enrich and uphold all who are involved. This line of thinking began to shift the questions that we asked ourselves about the work we want to do. We began pushing the concept of ‘sustainability’ and questioning how we can move beyond it. How can we ensure that the land and the people living on it are both strengthened? Our approach to environmentalism and social enterprise is grounded in the goal of truly enriching the lives and experiences of all involved – human and non-human alike – rather than simply designing a way of life which allows status quo to be maintained.
All of this leads us into the words we chose to represent us. Silver sagebrush is a plant that grows abundantly throughout Treaty 7 Territory, including within Calgary. It is a perennial, renewing itself year after year, and it tends to grow in clusters (or as we like to think of it, in communities); qualities that we would like to emulate in our work. To the Niitsitapi peoples and other Indigenous communities this plant has deep cultural significance and importance. As the anchor of our name, Sagebrush is a constant reminder of our connection to this land and our relationships with the First Nations signatories of Treaty 7. Sagebrush grounds us, centers us, and focuses our attentions.
Social is perhaps more self-explanatory. It can refer to a group of people, a community, or general interpersonal relationships. For us, ‘social’ extends beyond the realm of human interactions and includes the land, the water, and the plants and animals that we interact with as well. With that in mind, our concept of ‘social change’ shifts from being centered primarily on humans, to focusing on enacting positive change that uplifts and enriches us and the land, simultaneously.
We live in a time when there are many theories and ideas about how to best move forward with environmentalism, reconciliation, and social change. This is where the word praxis comes into play. Praxis can be defined as the act of putting theories and ideas into actual practice; not only ascribing to certain beliefs and values but embodying and applying them. Real change requires more than just theory – it also demands that we put these theories to work. Including Praxis in our name is our way of acknowledging this, and declaring our commitment to it in all that we do.
Clearly, relationship-building and reciprocity are undercurrents of all our goals as a non-profit organization. At Sagebrush Social Praxis it is our responsibility to take the knowledge and passion that we have, and to use it to create forward-thinking communities and social movements. Our name signifies this commitment, and reminds us of where we are, who we are responsible to, and the importance of reciprocity to our work.
Marsee for reading!