Ways of Knowing

 Written by Carissa MacLennan, Director of Education & Youth Engagement at the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. Toronto, Ontario.

I am sometimes asked, “why does the Jane Goodall Institute work with Canadian First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities – what does this have to do with conserving chimpanzees?”  

Well, the response is quite simple.  We could not protect chimpanzees without working with local villagers and Elders to better understand the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment in areas where chimpanzees live.  It is once a community understands their impacts from a sustainability, or holistic, lens that they are able to develop solutions to address root causes of our environmental, social and economic issues.

The Jane Goodall Institute believes that Indigenous Ways of Knowing are essential to creating a sustainable world: a world where citizens rethink livable environments, eco-economics, and responsible and informed consumerism.  This is a world that not only benefits chimpanzees, but all living creatures. 

As an educator, I believe that bringing Traditional Ways of Knowing into your classroom is essential for creating a better world.  Here are the top reasons why I think it is beneficial and important to bring Aboriginal Ways of Knowing into your classroom:

  1. Teaching the 21st Century Learner:  Traditional Ways of Knowing provide a holistic and ‘systems’ lens through which we can examine critically the environmental issues facing our planet while also addressing our economic, social, cultural, and spiritual needs.  Strategies for Traditional Learning, include personal reflection, relationship building, and collaboration; knowledge, values and skills necessary to create a more sustainable society.
  2. Aboriginal Worldviews are Essential for the Health of Mother Earth and her People:  Current approaches to solving environmental and social justice issues are not doing enough.  We need to ensure that our approaches are inclusive of indigenous knowledge, and that we always see the interconnectedness of the people, the environment and our societies.  It is also important that Aboriginal youth; Canada’s fastest growing and most marginalized population who are also a large populace of ‘kids of potential’, see themselves as leaders in creating change.
  3. Respect for Cultural Diversity:  More than 50 years ago, there were 6000 languages on the planet.  Today, half of those languages no longer exist.  As educators, we play a vital role in ensuring the cultural diversity of our community is authentically honoured and integrated into our resources, activities, and pedagogy.
  4. Healing our Nation:  Many First Nation, Métis and Inuit people experience discrimination in their own lands.  There are gaps of understanding, and sometimes trust, between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Understanding Traditional Ways of Knowing helps non-Aboriginal Canadians better understand the history of Canada and re-build trust, inclusion and respect.

JGI recently partnered with Learning for a Sustainable Future and has worked with a group of Aboriginal Elders and educators to develop our Protecting our Sacred Waters guide to support educators in bringing Traditional Ways of Knowing into your classroom. Stay tuned!

Sacred Water

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3 responses to “Ways of Knowing

  1. I have studied Traditional Knowledge before, it always reminds me of David Orr’s Slow knowledge where all uncertainties are addressed and action is taken with caution or not at all if there is too much risk at stake (like the precautionary principle). I believe you are right, if western philosophy began to integrate Traditional Knowledge we would have a more interconnected society that values nature and its creatures equally.

  2. Thank you, Anastasia, for the comment and thoughts around integrating Traditional Knowledge. We definitely agree with you, and this is the underlying philosophy of Dr. Goodall’s message – interconnected societies that respect all creature!

  3. Pingback: Education for Sustainable Development | Change is in you·

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