Indigenous Knowledge Context

Since the early 20th century Western science has been moving towards a view of the universe that is closer to the traditional worldview of Indigenous peoples. Modern physics and biology show that at the energy level of creation is all connected and that actions in one part of the system affect even remote parts of the system. The rising prominence of Ecological models in science, psychology and technology theories speaks to the growing recognition in the western tradition that there needs to be an understanding and recognition of the interconnectedness of the whole – plants, humans, communities, animals, and the earth. The huge negative effects we are now seeing from the domination and exploitation of nature – the ‘global ecological crisis’ – the ongoing displacement of people from their lands for resource development, and the continuing erosion of other cultures and languages by the dominant multimedia monoculture – all these things have raised very large questions. The western ‘scientific model’ is not working, and not bringing a better life to most people. The whole myth of endless economic progress is being brought into question – not just by the new generation of Indigenous scholars, but by theorists across world and traditions. Barnhardt and Kawagley (1999) say it is now clear that the western mode of thinking has given us a global system and “the economic imperatives of a market-driven society in which short-term expediency, efficiency and cost-effectiveness  tend to take precedence over local considerations related to long term sustainability, adaptability and self-sufficiency.” (p.10)


We know that healthy ecosystems are characterized by diverse, interdependent species mutually flourishing in their environment. Many scholars (Battiste, 2005; Bowers et. al 2000) and activists have pointed out this principle holds true for diversity of global cultural knowledge as well. Rather than acknowledge the rich knowledge resources of Indigenous people, Battiste (2005) says the Canadian government has in fact pursued an aggressive and damaging policy of assimilation over the past century (p. 2) and through education and displacement has attempted to devalue and erase traditional languages and cultures. Arguing against this trend, Battiste (2002), in a report for INAC, says that indigenous knowledge is more than complementary to western knowledge – “it benchmarks the limitations of Eurocentric theory – its methodology, evidence, and conclusions – reconceptualizes the resilience and self-reliance of indigenous peoples… Indigenous knowledge fills the ethical and knowledge gaps in Eurocentric education, research, and scholarship.” (p. 5)


It is becoming clear that Indigenous knowledge – both as content and method – has great relevance to the contemporary search for a more environmentally and socially sustainable ways of living on the planet in the face of global corporate pressures for development.  In addition to ensuring representation of aboriginal cultures and ways of knowing in First Nations education in Canada, many elements of Indigenous knowledge can be seen as directly relevant to needed changes in mainstream education. This paper will explore the place of new technologies in these changes and bring forward some of the ‘best practices’ in Canada as inspiration and examples.

???I want to look at various examples of Indigenous Media as “best practices” to guide questions around how technology can support the preservation, sharing, documentation, teaching and learning of TIK, and how technology can simultaneously support community development, and mobilization of social and political empowerment for self-determination.