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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2012

Indigenous knowledge defended

I read with sinking heart Heinz Klatt’s derogatory comments about indigenous knowledge in his February letter. His comments clearly illustrate what aboriginal professors have struggled to overcome — namely, the lack of understanding, knowledge and acceptance of a different system of knowledge.

Much of the skills and knowledge that kept settler communities alive came from indigenous communities. Agriculture, engineering, medicine, biodiversity, and perhaps even the American Constitution arose from knowledge acquired from indigenous communities. Many scholars fail to recognize that many medicines arose from indigenous knowledge. When we have a good idea, the mainstream society will take ownership of it.

Indigenous knowledge includes political thought, legal philosophy and re­ligious precepts as well as science. As indigenous peoples, we need to understand not only our own cultural knowledge but also find some way to live within a dominant colonial structure that ignores our contributions.

Some mainstream professors may call our knowledge “prattle and drivel.” I fear for anyone in academia who fails to expand their knowledge base and search out new theories. Without theories and insights, we would still all belong to the flat earth society, not have walked on the moon or discovered vaccines. Good luck to everyone who wants to stay stuck in the 19th century.

Patti Doyle-Bedwell
Director, Transition Year Program
College of Continuing Education
Dalhousie University

Letters to the Editor
Letters for publication are welcome. Letters should address a specific article, comment, or letter that recently appeared in the paper or be tied to recent events. Letters are limited to 300 words and may be edited for length and clarity. Include your name, address and phone number. Anonymous letters will not be accepted. Submissions that are considered potentially libellous will not be published. We read every letter we receive and every letter gets equal consideration. Publication is at the sole discretion of CAUT. If your letter is accepted for publication, you will be contacted by phone, electronic mail, fax or return mail. Letters should be sent to Liza Duhaime.