Indigenous ways of knowing


  • Two-eyed-seeing refers to a way of recognising and valuing different systems of knowledge alongside each other e.g. Western Capitalist vs Indigenous, recognising the strengths and biases of each in a non-judgemental way. This approach has been applied with up to 12 systems of knowledge all being put as lenses to understand systems through.

  • Decolonizing vs reconciliation.

    • Decolonizing creates a binary or negative. Appropriate in that it is getting to power and balances - institutions and practices. Thinking outside the box.

    • Reconciliation is safer and more positive. It involves truth-telling (listening, not jumping to problem-solving “community needs to sit with it’s own data”) and creating relationships with indigenous. Thinking inside the circle (centring indigenous wisdom).

  • Indigenous are natural systems thinkers in the way they understand the interconnectedness of all things and different ways of knowing.

  • Nations are really diverse and should be treated as such. Panelist Melanie Goodchild pointed out that when they come to a new territory or setting they request to be forgiven for any offenses they may make in protocol.

  • The best way to learn is to immerse yourself by going to indigenous communities on reserve rather than asking them to sit around a board table writing on post-it notes. Take the time to enter into a different experience of time, language, connection to land and relationship to people.

  • Pay people for their time, recognizing a lot is asked of indigenous elders and knowledge keepers are leaving their families and other responsibilities to help your project.

  • Inclusion continuum :

    • Token inclusion / consultation

    • Indigenous opening

    • On board / governance committee

    • Hire on team as equals

    • Indigenous in leadership position

    • Indigenize resource flows and business models

Present questions

  • How can we meaningfully engage indigenous people while being respectful of people’s time and priorities and consultation fatigue? How can we start positively?

  • Are there pieces of indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing that we can use ethically (without appropriation)?

  • How can we sit together better in our differences?

Provocations for your lab

Are you going to indigenous communities holding the assumption that there is critical wisdom there you need to integrate into your lab? How much are you willing to value and invest in that wisdom? A lot of people want to “do reconciliation”. But reconciliation is about relationship building. It’s premised on respectful relationships. Not just about inviting indigenous people to dance and be beads and feathers – which is beautiful – but we want to be critical thinkers + join the conversation.

What is your acceptable pace of engagement? Can you recognize that in order to solve wicked, intergenerational problems we need to slow down and build the relationships first to create an environment of trust and mutual care so we can have the critical dialogue?

Are you recognizing the authority, wisdom and value of ALL LIFE in your lab practice? Or are you centred totally on humans? For indigenous peoples, humans are not the central beings. All the agency is distributed between the land, humans, water, animals.


Would you be willing to have 1000 cups of tea as process for systems-mapping (through stories) and relationship-building to engage with indigenous knowledge-keepers?