Using The Third Space to both honour resistance and foster hope.

Originally posted on October 22, 2017 on Connect

Indigenous cultures have nurtured an interconnected worldview for hundreds of years. In contrast, Western cultures have excelled in specializing and compartmentalizing their knowledge for hundreds of years.

For myself, the Knowledge System comparative list in the Kawagley and Barnhardt piece really drove home the differences in Indigenous and Western worldviews. I sometimes find myself thinking that since the worldviews are fundamentally so different, that it is a seemingly impossible task to work together, in one school, educating both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

But then, I think about what I learned in Module 1 regarding “The Third Space”.* The Third Space is where two worldviews can overlap, share, learn and exist in a non-binary, “third world”– for myself, I think of The Third Space as the overlapping bits of a Venn Diagram.

Kawagley and Barnhardt continue in their essay to emphasise Indigenous priorities that relate to survival: adaptation, sustainability, and self-sufficiency– priorities that tribes have held for hundreds and hundreds of years! Indigenous peoples are the experts in these fields; experts that non-Indigenous peoples would be wise to learn from. As being able to adapt has historically been a matter that survival has directly depended on, it is no surprise to know that Indigenous cultures are meeting in The Third Space, so that modern affordances can be brought into their non-static, worldview.  The Third Space provides allowances for peoples to not only protect their worldview, but to then allow that worldview to evolve in the presence of hope for a better, more sustainable future.

Kawagley, A. O., & Barnhardt, R. (1998). Education indigenous to place: Western science meets native reality. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

The list…


Indigenous Worldviews

Western Worldviews

Spirituality is imbedded in all elements of the cosmos Spirituality is centered in a single Supreme Being
Humans have responsibility for maintaining harmonious relationship with the natural world Humans exercise dominion over nature to use it for personal and economic gain
Need for reciprocity between human and natural worlds – resources are viewed as gifts Natural resources are available for unilateral human exploitation
Nature is honored routinely through daily spiritual practice Spiritual practices are intermittent and set apart from daily life
Wisdom and ethics are derived from direct experience with the natural world Human reason transcends the natural world and can produce insights independently
Universe is made up of dynamic, ever-changing natural forces Universe is made up of an array of static physical objects
Universe is viewed as a holistic, integrative system with a unifying life force Universe is compartmentalized in dualistic forms and reduced to progressively smaller conceptual parts
Time is circular with natural cycles that sustain all life Time is a linear chronology of “human progress”
Nature will always possess unfathomable mysteries Nature is completely decipherable to the rational human mind
Human thought, feelings and words are inextricably bound to all other aspects of the universe Human thought, feeling and words are formed apart from the surrounding world
Human role is to participate in the orderly designs of nature Human role is to dissect, analyze and manipulate nature for own ends
Respect for elders is based on their compassion and reconciliation of outer- and inner-directed knowledge Respect for others is based on material achievement and chronological old age
Sense of empathy and kinship with other forms of life Sense of separateness from and superiority over other forms of life
View proper human relationship with nature as a continuous two-way, transactional dialogue View relationship of humans to nature as a one-way, hierarchical imperative

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