K-2 Chapter 5. Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Background Art by Joanne Robertson, Water Protection Activist, Author & Illustrator of the Water Walker

This inquiry looks at how Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, skills and practices, passed down from generation to generation, play a vital role in understanding climate action. Indigenous peoples have been, and are leaders, of climate action; their roles in monitoring climate change impacts and the environmental effects on their traditional lands and waters play a critical part in our fight against climate change. (NRCan section 3.3

There is a great deal that we can learn from how Indigenous peoples have lived sustainably with the Land for countless generations. Indigenous peoples have adapted by travelling throughout their Land and creating a balance between food sources and resource use, depending on the season. We need to listen carefully to better understand how Traditional knowledge, and its application, contribute to environmental sustainability and planning for the future. According to the NRCAN report, incorporating diverse perspectives and sources of knowledge, such as Indigenous Knowledge Systems, are also imperative for effective adaptation (NRCan section 3.4). 

The National Issues Report identifies four key strengths of Indigenous and local knowledge systems (NRCan section 3.3) in the context of understanding and responding to climate change, including: 

  1. understanding, monitoring and recording climate change impacts;
  2. enhancing adaptive capacity and building resilience; 
  3. supporting sustainable risk reduction strategies; and 
  4. informing decision-making and policy change. 

In this inquiry, we suggest activities, books, and resources that explore various examples of these Indigenous Ways of Knowing and how the teachings and learning is passed on from one generation to the next. Indigenous communities have their own experts, elders, knowledge keepers and ways of knowing; their knowledge is a valuable and essential resource for learning how to adapt to climate change (NRCan section 3.4).  Indigenous Ways of Knowing is knowledge that we need to value so we can learn what they understand to help the climate conversation and actively seek it to guide us (NRCan section 3.3).

Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall coined the phrase Etuaptmumk/“two-eyed seeing” this way: (2004) 

“I, you and we need to learn to see from one eye with the best or the strengths in the Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing… and learn to see from your other eye with the best or the strengths in the (Western) knowledges and ways of knowing… but most importantly, I, you, and we need to learn to see with both eyes together, for the benefit of all.”   Elder Albert Marshall, EdCan Network, May 29, 2018

View Indigenous Knowledges and Two-Eyed Seeing: An In-Depth Conversation with Elder Albert Marshall – A dialogue about the importance of Indigenous Knowledge and the Two-Eyed Seeing in addressing climate change and creating a resilient future. The webinar was organized by Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg. Indigenous Ways of knowing and being are critical for understanding, observing and addressing climate change.

For more information on Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change, visit the Climate Atlas of Canada.

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