Indigenous Ways of Knowing encompass a number of approaches to learning, knowledge, and teaching within Indigenous cultures, passed from generation to generation.
An Indigenous Ways of Knowing approach emphasizes a holistic perspective—the interconnectness of all things physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—that informs Indigenous worldviews. As described by Cree scholar Verna Kirkness and Ray Barnhardt, "its meaning, value and use are bound to the cultural context in which it is situated, it is thoroughly integrated into everyday life, and it is generally acquired through direct experience and participation in real-world activities" (2001, pg. 7).
Western philosophies organize spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional pursuits as hierarchical values that are entirely separate from one other. Western modes of understanding of the world are incompatible and often hostile to holistic approaches at the heart of Indigenous worldviews. In education, Indigenous students oftentimes struggle against a system that fails to value their cultural knowledge, traditions, and core values (2001, pg. 7).
While Indigenous ways of knowing have been heavily suppressed by Western colonialism, these practices remain a vibrant, enduring part of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures.
As educators we can support the success of Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students alike by embracing decolonial teaching philosophies, putting these values into practice, and diversifying our view of what achievement looks like in the classroom and beyond.
Etuaptmumk (Mi'kmaq) or Two-Eyed Seeing is a concept of bringing together multiple perspectives to shape a view of reality informed by each of them. As explained by Mi'kmaq Elder Dr. Albert Marshall, through Etuaptmumk we embrace “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all" (Reid et al., 2020).
Through embracing concepts like Etuaptmumk, we can think of Indigenization as a process of holding onto each of these differing perspectives, recognizing the strengths of each, and moving forward with the understanding that weaving them together creates a stronger whole.