I had the pleasure of attending a learning seminar (a 300 person seminar) on Mi'kmaq Ecological Knowledge yesterday; a full day of interesting learning from Canadians: Mi'kmaq, Glooscap and Mi'kmaq Elders, Government reps, University Chairs and Industry. I was struck by the presentations of Mi'kmaq Elder Albert Marshall, Elder Lawrence Wells and Kerry Prosper. They were so passionate, sincere and spoke with such clarity and honesty...I was riveted.
Now, why did I feel at home? I felt that I could breathe out, that someone was speaking out loud what needs to be said...and not being shy or apologetic about it. A while back I posted a blog begging for voices of clarity to make themselves heard and at last I heard you. Thank you.
About 20 years ago someone once said to me "2% of the population doesn't tell the rest of the population what to do". That has been in my head for 2 decades and I've been struggling with it, wondering why I was so bothered by it. It didn't ring true to me. Sure, I got the message, majority rules. But, it never settled well with me. I'm beginning to understand why now. There is more than one truth. In Western eyes, we see or are taught to see the world in one way, a scientific way: Black is black, white is white, what goes up must come down. Nowhere are we taught to think otherwise. But, sometimes black is not black and white is not white; and often lessons are not learned. Why can't 2% of the population warn the others of their wrong doings? Why can we accept 2% of the population, the ruling elite, controlling everything? When is it OK to be listened to...when you represent over 10% of the population...25%?
I think it's amazing that the indigenous peoples of this country were able to maintain their culture at all against such narrow-minded societal and political forces. Wow, just amazing. Marginalized, ignored, debased, divided, isolated...treated as second-class. What hardship to endure. And yet, after all this the Elders still want to teach us; still think we can learn. Can we?
Here are some profound ideas from the seminar:
- Mi'kmaq believe that they are related to everything: animals, plants, earth, rocks, etc... If you live on a piece of land long enough and you live and die on that land, you become a part of that environment. A part of your ancestors are caught up in the life cycles on earth, in rocks, water, trees, animals, etc. - a spiritual connection. We are a living part of creation because life in creation is a circle. (Kerry Prosper)
- All cultures once had the same relationship with earth but we have developed at different speeds and rates. (Kerry Prosper)
- In the West there is a lot of knowledge written down and transferred - and there is a lot of junk and junk in ownership (Kerry Prosper)
- Sometimes we are asked to prove certain things, even spiritual, sometimes legends can be proven and some not - if proven it is acknowledged. Sometimes you just have to believe, not seek proof; have faith in everything that's here, in people, and have faith that we will begin learning to do the right thing (Kerry Prosper)
- Indigenous teachings cannot always be explained in words - you have to experience it first-hand. (Kerry Prosper)
- Without routine acts of respect for our resources we lose respect for them. By having ceremonies and showing respect for nature we never lose the respect, it is important to always reconnect. (Kerry Prosper)
- We are all indigenous to a land somewhere and we all have a responsibility to our relations, the life forces. (Kerry Prosper)
- How are science and traditional knowledge similar: both are based on observation of the natural world, both are pattern-based knowledge, both are an exchange of stories as the foundation of any kind of relationship; both acknowledge that science is dynamic - it changes and is not carved in stone (Dr. Cheryl Bartlett)
- Etuaptmumk: two-eyed seeing. The first explorers relied heavily on the indigenous and today there is still a great need for spirituality to be nursed. There is a heavy onus on the Indigenous to make sure the language survives (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Two-eyed seeing concept: I only have a small part of the knowledge and to survive in the environment I need other people to help remind me how I am interconnected and interdependent. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- It is not enough to go through life with one perspective - how can one learn, how can one be cognitive of a changing world? We must embrace all the tools we have. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- I am not only physical, I am spiritual and prepared to extend that feeling to all living things both physical and spiritual. Everything alive is both physical and spiritual. Modern science sees objects but our language teaches us to see subjects. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Take the accomplishments of the white man's way further by blending it with the wisdom from ancestors. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Netukulimk: sustaining ourselves. A rich concept - a reminder of where our responsibilities are; an understanding that needs to be integrated to speak for the species who cannot speak because they are not in human form. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Two-eyed seeing does not belong in any particular discipline, it is about life... (Dr. Cheryl Bartlett)
- Benefits of two-eyed seeing; community capacity, knowledge inclusivity (capacity growing not capacity building), empowerment. (Dr. Cheryl Bartlett)
- Education systems are not well equipped to take the time to learn. (I love this one) (Dr. Cheryl Bartlett)
- Once separated from the natural world, there is profound risk. (Dr. Cheryl Bartlett)
- Indigenous validation is through the elders - the knowledge of elders must always be used. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Western science wants to figure out nature to be more expedient in the manipulation of it. (Love this one too!) (Elder Albert Marshall)
- Indigenous people abide by earths laws- if she is healthy than I and my family will always be healthy. See nature for what it is. (Elder Albert Marshall)
- There is need to reverse the pattern of universities who produce students who are experts in exploitation. (Elder Albert Marshall)
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