“The future is a realm we have inhabited for thousands of years”: Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Little BearDr. Leroy Little Bear

(LEA LA VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL ABAJO)

For the last three weeks we have been sharing videos and teachings related to water issues in Indigenous territories. The message of the Elders from Nunjwákala/Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the resistance of the Mikmak community in Elsipogtog against transnational mining, and the victory of the Sarayaku nation in the Amazon over the Ecuadorian state are all examples of when two mind-sets clash. They all show the need of an intercultural dialogue, a point of convergence between Indigenous knowledge and Western science.

Today, celebrating the equinox, we would like to invite you to think about this convergence, based on the talk by Dr. Leroy Little Bear, a Blackfoot Elder and scholar who, in January 2015, with the support of The Banff Centre, proposed some contrasts and similarities between quantum physics and Indigenous knowledge:

Watch => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJSJ28eEUjI

With humor and humility, Dr. Little Bear reminds us that science is all about the unknown, and not about formulas, math or the application of the known (technology). For him, the “constant flux” of quantum physics is currently dialoguing with the ancestral thought about the constant flow among all beings. In addition to matter and particles, the Blackfoot epistemology also talks about energy waves, which, in other words, could be called spirit. From this point of view, everything is alive/animated/related; therefore, it is not possible to study it in isolation as Western science sometimes does. In Dr. Little Bear’s words, quantum physics have started to realize the need for a holistic approach in which matter, motion and constant transformation are the foundation of renewal.

In tune with Elder Little Bear’s talk, Tsalagi/Ojibwe scholar Valerie Goodness has proposed Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to refer to the first nations’ techniques and ancestral knowledge. TEK offers, for example, alternative methods for irrigation, soil conservation, ecosystems and natural water reservoirs, astronomy, and use of medicinal plants. For Goodness, Western scientists are now accepting the fact that Indigenous peoples have an understanding of uncertainty and intuition that allows them to detect changes in ecosystems quicker. (READ: “Idle No More: Decolonizing Water, Food and Natural Resources With TEK”) As in the Blackfoot epistemology, Goodness recalls that in Haudenosaunee thinking all species and beings are interconnected, and it is from this “way of being in the world” (ethos) that it is possible to achieve sustainability:

All things are connected. Mother Earth, the Waters, Fish, Grasses, Medicine Plants, Food Plants, Animals, Trees, Birds, Four Winds, Grandfather Thunder, Elder Brother the Sun, Grandmother Moon, Stars, the protectors, Handsome Lake and the Creator are all connected and thanked. (Goodness, Web)

Based on these reflections, to look ahead, therefore, we must recover the past; perhaps reimagine the time beyond a straight line. The clarity of this certainty vibrates in the words of thinkers such as Little Bear and Goodness. These are voices that connect ancient cosmologies with a future of welfare for the generations to come. In the words of Hawaiian writer Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada:

Yet remembering the past does not mean that we are wallowing in it. Paying attention to our history does not mean we are ostriching our heads in the sand, refusing to believe that the modern world is all around us. We native peoples carry our histories, memories, and stories in our skin, in our bones, in our health, in our children, in the movement of our hands, in our interactions with modernity, in the way we hold ourselves on the land and sea (…) Standing on our mountain of connections, our foundation of history and stories and love, we can see both where the path behind us has come from and where the path ahead leads. This connection assures us that when we move forward, we can never be lost because we always know how to get back home. The future is a realm we have inhabited for thousands of years. (“We live in the future. Come join us.”. READ: Kekaupu Hehiale. Abril 3 de 2014).

There is, therefore, an arduous way to go if we want to establish a dialogue between mindsets. It is not a one way journey, but a number of trails which we could take simultaneously to find convergences.

***

Anishinabeg Wheel

Anishinabee/Ojibwe Medicine Wheel

“EL FUTURO ES UN REINO QUE HEMOS HABITADO DESDE HACE MILES DE AÑOS”: CONOCIMIENTO TRADICIONAL ECOLÓGICO

En las últimas tres semanas hemos estado compartiendo enseñanzas y videos relacionados con el agua en territorios indígenas. El mensaje de los hermanos mayores desde Nunjwákala/Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, la resistencia de la comunidad Mikmak en Elsipogtog contra la minería transnacional, y la victoria de la nación Sarayaku en la Amazonía sobre el estado ecuatoriano, son todos ejemplos en donde dos modos de pensar chocan. Todos ellos muestran la necesidad de un diálogo intercultural, un punto de convergencia entre el conocimiento indígena y la ciencia occidental.

Hoy, celebrando el equinoccio, queremos invitarlos a pensar en este puente a partir de la charla del Dr. Leroy Little Bear, sabedor Blackfoot y académico, quien en enero de 2015, con el apoyo de The Banff Centre, propuso algunas diferencias y similitudes entre la física cuántica y el conocimiento indígena.

VER AQUÍ => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJSJ28eEUjI

Con humor y humildad, el mayor Little Bear nos recuerda cómo el objetivo de la ciencia es ahondar en lo desconocido y no quedarse en fórmulas o aplicaciones de lo conocido (tecnología). Para él, la idea de “flujo constante” de la física cuántica está dialogando hoy con el pensamiento ancestral y su idea del flujo constante entre todos los seres de la existencia. Además de materia y de partículas, la epistemología Blackfoot habla también de ondas de energía, que en otras palabras podrían llamarse espíritu. Desde esta perspectiva, todo está vivo y todo se relaciona, razón por la cual no es posible estudiar de forma aislada “la naturaleza” como a veces pretende la ciencia occidental. En palabras de Dr. Little Bear, afortunadamente la física cuántica ha comenzado a darse cuenta de la necesidad de un enfoque holístico en donde la materia, el movimiento y la constante transformación sean la base de la renovación de la naturaleza.

Hay, pues, un arduo camino por recorrer si queremos establecer un diálogo entre epistemologìas por el bien de las futuras generaciones. No es un camino unívoco, sino una serie de senderos que debemos andar simultáneamente para encontrar las convergencias.

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