Revaluation of Indigenous Cultures

The tide has turned and there is a great resurgence in the social and cultural power of Indigenous cultures. The reasons are complex, but one important influence on this renaissance has been the concurrent rise of mass multi-media and global Internet access, giving rise to a powerful tool for ensuring continued survival, development, and empowerment of indigenous communities, cultures and worldviews.

 

Leroy Little Bear (2009) describes Culture in its most fundamental form and structure as “a collective agreement of the members of a society, linguistic group, and/or nation regarding the nature of reality. It includes prescriptions and circumscriptions about what is and not is acceptable. It includes beliefs, customs, values, and sanction (both positive and negative). It can be said that a culture is a collective agreement between members of a group of human beings that basically says, ‘this is how we are going to run our society.’” (p. 8) This revaluation is a global trend, so we compare this to the UNESCO definition from the World Conference on Cultural Policies in Mexico City (1982): “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.”

 

Despite the on-going effects of global colonialism: cultural erosion and displacement by corporate interests and governments; despite the very negative history of abuse, interference and devaluing, aboriginal cultures are alive and well and undergoing a great resurgence of spirit and energy – aiming to reclaim their voices and their power. “The recognition and intellectual activation of Indigenous knowledge today is an act of empowerment by Indigenous people.” (Battiste, 2005, p.1) Within this overall cultural context, what is Indigenous Traditional Knowledge? What do indigenous knowledge systems have to contribute to contemporary conversations around sustainable development, and a more holistic pedagogy in education- Indigenous and non-indigenous in Canada? How might this impact educational practice – from content to instructional design?

 

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