Land-based learning: Building bridges between Indigenous knowledge and Western science

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Tahsin, Tanjina
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Indigenous communities look for learning opportunities that reflect and build on their cultural traditions, land-based experiences, and worldviews. Western science contrasts with Indigenous ways of learning and knowing since it is more quantitative, analytical and based on experimentation. Yet Indigenous students continue to be underrepresented in the scientific disciplines. One way of addressing such gaps is to bridge the two knowledge systems in ways that simultaneously affirm the importance of both. The research aims to explore how Indigenous knowledge and science might be better integrated and intends to build capacity around both science and traditional culture among Indigenous youth using land-based learning camps. It was combined with participatory action research (PAR) and Indigenous methodology and uses “two-eyed seeing” as a guiding principle in that no one worldview is allowed to dominate over the other. In summer 2019, four camps were conducted across Manitoba (in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation, Sagkeeng First Nation, and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) and one in northwestern Ontario (in Couchiching First Nation). The land-based camps prioritized local environmental issues and community engagement by ensuring true and meaningful participation at all stages of the camp and provided Indigenous communities with the opportunity to share the power of knowledge production. Scientists, Elders and knowledge keepers shared their own insights, mostly focusing on local declines in water quality. Camps were generally well received by all host communities. Final reports that provided the outcomes of scientific testing in accessible and impactful ways were especially useful, although they might have better represented Elder teachings. These camps represent a valuable opportunity for communities to build their capacity in the sciences while also affirming the importance of cultural traditions and community aspirations. In so doing, the camps represent an important way of lessening the education gap and of further developing community resilience when it comes to protecting their environments and cultural traditions alike.
Indigenous knowledge, Land-based camps, Two-eyed of seeing, Western science, Cultural traditions, Youth, Water quality