Module 3 Research Connections

Module 3 Entry #1- Recommended Reading: Education Indigenous to Place: Western Science Meets Native Reality: by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley and Ray Barnhardt

This article looks at Indigenous Knowledge Systems, heralds the increasing recognition their validity in a broader context of western education and policy development, and compares and contrasts Indigenous Worldviews with those of Western Worldviews.

The article provides an interesting anecdote in which a 90-year-old elder chides a group of biologists about their record of statistics on fish habitat that is 30 years old, when his people have been monitoring the fish for 300 years.

A worthwhile read, and very much in line with my research interests.


Module 3 Entry #2- Recommended Reading: Indigenous Knowledge Systems/Alaska Native Ways of Knowing by Ray Barnhardt Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley

This article looks at approaches to integrate the role of indigenous knowledge in mainstream education to enrich learning for all. It is recognized that indigenous students have long been disenchanted with westernized society’s approach to education, but we are now coming to the realization that a mono-cultural approach to education is bound to fail. There is an increasing willingness to look at other approaches to learning that diverge from the conventional form of education that has prevailed.


Module 3 Entry #3- What is Traditional Knowledge- Alaska Native Science Commission

I was led to this site that explains the definition of Traditional Knowledge and contrasts it from non-indigenous knowledge, discusses structure and discusses maintaining ownership and control.

As defined by The Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Mayor, 1994) defines traditional knowledge:

The indigenous people of the world possess an immense knowledge of their environments, based on centuries of living close to nature.  Living in and from the richness and variety of complex ecosystems, they have an understanding of the properties of plants and animals, the functioning of ecosystems and the techniques for using and managing them that is particular and often detailed.  In rural communities in developing countries, locally occurring species are relied on for many – sometimes all – foods, medicines, fuel, building materials and other products.  Equally, people’s knowledge and perceptions of the environment, and their relationships with it, are often important elements of cultural identity. 


Module 3 Entry #4- Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens

This handbook serves as a practical guide and is geared towards teachers in an effort to integrate traditional native knowledge and western science perspectives. It originates from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

Sidney Stephens has attempted to “distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways.”

The aim of the handbook is to “provide teachers invaluable assistance with the task of developing and teaching culturally responsive science curriculum.”


Module 3 Entry #5- Inuit Qaujisarvingat: Inuit Knowledge Centre

A short video interview with Martin Lougheed, from the Inuit Knowledge Centre, where he makes the case for “a synthesis of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge) and western science to help better understand, and find solutions to, the significant climatic changes affecting Inuit Nunangat.”

Goals for the Inuit Knowledge Centre include:

  • Promote information
  • Make connections between researchers and Inuit Knowledge
  • Ensure that proper, effective and ethical way
  • Promote traditional knowledge in policy and decision making -video interview

November 11, 2012   No Comments

Module 2 Research- David McInnes

Module 2 Entry #1- Challenges of Preserving Traditional Languages

My interest was peeked due to a documentary (Endangered Speech) I saw about how the Inuktitut language is being lost in the Canadian arctic as older generations pass on. The documentary focused on the different approaches in preserving the language, between Greenland and Canada and highlighted some challenges of preserving any cultural traditions where there are variations and differences of opinion.

Because Inuktitut was a spoken language, there have been challenges preserving the language. Several written versions have been recorded, but there is variation due to the extent of the distances from Alaska to Greenland, the various dialects, and in some instances the written text were done by missionaries of European descent.

In Greenland, they have been very successful in preserving the Greenlandic (Inuktitut) language by taking some difficult steps. They decisively acted to standardize the text to enable a greater number of print materials to be produced to help teach the young people. By standardizing the writing system they only learn one alphabet. Even though there are many dialects, there is only one official written dialect.  The “youth are Confident in identity and secure in their culture thanks to the foresight of the previous generation”.

In Canada, it has been much the opposite. There are fewer and fewer Inuktitut speakers and they have been unable to come to a compromise to select one writing system. The Elders are resistant to change and concerned about losing their dialects, or choosing one writing system.

To view the documentary:


Module 2 Entry #2- Using Technology to Preserve Traditional Languages


FirstVoices is a web based tool and service that enable First Nations communities to preserve and promote their languages. “FirstVoices is a suite of web-based tools and services designed to support Aboriginal people engaged in language archiving, language teaching & culture revitalization.

FirstVoices archives over 60 First Nations languages, and there is a “Language Tutor” that allows students to record their own voice and compare it to the examples.

I became aware of the project several years ago, when working in technology assisted learning unit of our department of education. It presented difficulty in our schools as fonts and keyboards were problematic in terms of being able to write the languages of Northern Yukon First Nations languages due to extensive use of diacritics (or accents above and below a letter that gives it a different sound).

What is most interesting is the fact that it touches on the debate to share their language, or keep it within the First Nations’ community so that only descendants have access to learning the language.

“Some language archives at FirstVoices are publicly accessible, while others are password protected at the request of the language community.”

Introduction video:


Module 2 Entry #3- Preservation of Traditional Knowledge to Protect its Sovereignty

The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

A database of traditional knowledge (medicinal practices, traditional foods, etc.) in India that gives legitimacy and protection to traditional information that otherwise might be scooped up and patented by profiteering groups outside of India. By developing accessible archives of traditional practices, India is better equipped to defend their ancient use of these traditions and knowledge. Because much of this traditional knowledge was passed down orally from generation to generation, it was very difficult to prove its origins.

“Documentation of this existing knowledge, available in public domain, on various traditional systems of medicine has become imperative to safeguard the sovereignty of this traditional knowledge and to protect it from being misappropriated in the form of patents on non-original innovations, and which has been a matter of national concern. India fought successfully for the revocation of turmeric and basmati patents granted by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and neem patent granted by European Patent Office (EPO).”


Module 2 Entry #4- Traditional Knowledge: Collection, Preservation, Protection and Access

 SlideShare presentation by Dr. H.K. Kaul- Director, DELNET, New Delhi


Module 2 Entry #5- United Nations University- Traditional Knowledge Initiative

“aims to promote and strengthen research on traditional knowledge (TK) of indigenous and local communities conducted from a global perspective, grounded in local experience.”

Institute seeks to contribute to:

  • change mindsets and paradigms about the role of TK in our society and in key sectors such as academia, government and business;
  • increasing the recognition and importance of TK;
  • developing the application of TK in a broad range of contexts (e.g. ecosystem management and biotechnology);
  • developing strategies for the preservation and maintenance of TK; and facilitating the development of the capacity of indigenous communities to conserve and apply their knowledge in an increasingly globalized economy.

October 16, 2012   No Comments

David’s Research Focus

My Research Interests

Being a teacher in Northern Canada in a school that is largely First Nations, I would like to focus my research on First Nations’ traditional knowledge. In particular, I would like to look specifically at:

1.    How technology can be used to effectively preserve the integrity of traditional knowledge

My perception of technology being culturally neutral has evolved during the first module, and I would like to explore further how the use of technology effects how we see culture, traditions and knowledge. Furthermore, I would like to explore best practices to preserve culture with technology rather than undermine it.

2.    What strategies can be used to validate the authority of traditional knowledge to a broader audience within a westernized paradigm

I want to delve into the subject of legitimately including traditional knowledge in areas of science, ecology and environmentalism, without seemingly pandering to political correctness.

I have started collecting the following articles:

Huntington, H.P. (2000). Ecological Applications: Using Traditional Knowledge in Science: Methods and Applications. 10:5, 1270-1274.

Usher, P.J. (2000). Arctic: Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Environmental Assessment and Management. 53:2, 183-193.

Wenzel, G.W. (1999). Artic: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Inuit: Reflections on TEK Research and Ethics. 52:2, 113-124.

David McInnes

September 25, 2012   No Comments

Culturally-Centric Schools- do they work?

I read an article in the National Post recently that I thought I would share with the rest of you regarding Africentric Schools in Toronto. They make reference to Toronto’s First Nations School, and it resonated with me as we have a First Nations School initiative here in Yukon as well. I too wonder about the longevity of such culturally specific schools.


What I found most interesting was the comments by one of the city councillors:

City councillor Josh Matlow, a former school trustee, wishes the program had never been established.

“I believe the school board, rather than putting resources into schools that separate students based on ethnicity or culture, should invest in reforming the curriculum so that it reflects the diversity of our city and our society,” he said.

Here is the link to the article:

David McInnes

September 24, 2012   No Comments