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Full Transcript: Episode 6

Weaving, Braiding, and Two-Eyed Seeing

Intro guitar music 0:00
Daniel De Kok 0:14

How should we bring together knowledge systems? How do we account for the differences and disparities between different ways of knowing, by defining and describing terms such as weaving, braiding, and Two-Eyed Seeing?

(Knowledge Systems) Stream members explain the language and concepts behind ways in which we can respectfully engage knowledge systems.

This episode includes segments from my interviews with the following Stream members, Nathan Cardinal, Jennifer Silver, Karen Beazley, Allyson Menzies, Soudeh Jamshidian, Gita Ljubicic, Andrea Reid, and Barbara Wall.

Nathan Cardinal 0:51

We’ll be all better off if we can be able to find ways to work together and to bring systems together. And there’s lots of talk about, like incorporation or engagement or braiding, I think all those kind of allude to this idea that we need to respectfully engage with and think about knowledge, the holders of those knowledge, and respect the autonomy of those systems to support our informed decision making.

Jennifer Silver 1:23

There’s sort of been a, certainly within the academy anyhow, a movement away from that term integration and more in braiding and weaving, which I, as a sort of just straight up way to talk about it, I think is an important evolution and terminology.

Karen Beazley 1:44

In Indigenous systems, everything is about relationship. Whereas in western systems, it’s so siloed and separate.

And so how do we learn how to combine the such an integrated approach with such a siloed approach, and we want to make sure we don’t end up tearing apart the Indigenous knowledge into silos so that we can plug it into this Western system and call that weaving that’s not really weaving, that’s mining.

Allyson Menzies 2:09

I think research has a long history of being extractive production of knowledge has tended to occur in what was known as the ivory tower for such a long time, and is still that way, in some ways where a certain type of person has access to the means and resources to produce knowledge for all of society to use. And not that that’s really what is happening on the ground.

But people who have access to those resources and those means, get to ask these questions and get to decide what is important to, to answer, and then go out and collect that information in whatever way they need to, in order to answer those questions.

And in the past, especially in the context of working…I won’t even say with Indigenous communities, I will say in studying Indigenous communities, it was often researchers would come in with questions of their own, collect information from people who lived there.

Whether it was sacred knowledge, or even physical biological samples from those people. And returned back to the university or the ivory tower and produce their reports or their papers or find their answers and never share back with the people who they worked with to get them.

So extraction, referring to extracting information, extracting data in a way that wasn’t meant to benefit the people who it was, who it was taken from. And I think whether that’s the way it was intended or not, I think that’s the way it happened.

And so even as we move forward and try to go away from this extractive research paradigm, it still can be very much that way, even if people intend for it to be better. I think it just refers to how much engagement or involvement the people that you’re taking this information from really have in the whole process.

Jennifer Silver 4:40

There’s the question of how then the knowledge that’s produced is used, and a lot of the folks that I know and collaborate with, they want to do good and interesting research that yields like new insight into a topic, but they also, we also want it to be used to make different to make different kinds of decisions or make better informed decisions.

And so as a social scientist, I would say to the listeners, like, we also really need to consider the sort of institutional and political context within which we’re asking for, hoping for that information to be taken up and maybe used in policy and decision making.

And so here’s where I alluded to, this a bit at the start of the conversation, as that I think that when we’re talking about state-led management within the context of kind of settler governance, there are some, there are still power imbalances, right?

There are still, they’re still the prioritization of sort of the ways in which the Canadian Constitution, for example, defines and sort of implements or formalizes into law.

Things as simple as food, social and ceremonial harvests, and separation of that from commercial harvest.

And we see challenges in those legal separations and distinctions in fisheries.

And so if those sort of structural and institutional constraints remain there and are sort of privileged or prioritized over Indigenous law, or over Indigenous objectives, and then this the science, that the best, you know, kind of weaved Indigenous knowledge and research with Western science still is not going to be taken up in the right way or the way in a good way, because there’s those sorts of structural or institutional constraints there.

So that’s the other thing. That’s my other little hobby horse as a social scientist, is like the science and the Indigenous knowledge in combination is super important and exciting. But we really need to think about the institutional and political context within which we’re asking and hoping for it to be used as well.

Soudeh Jamshidian 6:38

I think it kind of comes down to thinking who has the power, like who, is who has the power and who wants to share it, that’s where this context of co-management comes to play. That different parties have different levels of power and want to collaborate with one another.

And co-management is something that happens in an ethical space, which is something that maybe wasn’t discussed in co-management literature, at the time when, when it was being developed. But it’s also a context that has really existed for a very long time.

So thinking about it… in… there is a concept of complete co-management that Evelyn Pinkerton talks about it, basically saying that management that all the parties feel like their needs are met.

So there’s like consensus in there and no one feels like they are compromising everybody feels like they are having power. And they are collaborating and having a say in the way that things are being done.

And that’s really like collaboration in ethical space. So community participation or Indigenous community participation, just, it’s just that same concept that can happen in different levels. And I think it comes from a shift in the perspective and the way that we see the world and, and the resource management.

Allyson Menzies 8:14

Using the terms community and collaborative, I guess I would define it as, as research that involves members of the community that you are working with throughout the process, and that they make, you know, substantial contributions to the research that’s going on.

I know that there’s a bunch of other terms that also have emerged, like community based participatory research, which includes the term participatory, which again, eludes the fact that community members are actively… are active participants in the whole research process: contributing expertise, contributing, labour, contributing ideas.

And I think the key to all of it is that there’s a true, like, partnership or collaboration within that process where it’s based on shared priorities, shared concerns, and all partners are involved in decision making throughout the process.

And all partners are involved in interpretation and dissemination of results, and then figuring out where to go from there as well.

And I say that, knowing that people use those terms loosely, and may not actually do it in a way that I described, but in my mind when I think of good or proper community collaborative research, it refers to a true collaboration where… good relationships are formed, power dynamics are equal, decision making power is equal.

And it’s really about answering questions of all partners and benefitting everyone similarly. And so I guess to answer your question, yes, I would say that it’s a bit at the opposite end of the spectrum from this extractive type of research, more towards a partnership-oriented type of research.

But I would say within the idea of participatory research or collaborative research, there’s also a continuum of how, how engaged and how active community participants are in the research process. And not all research deserves the time and energy of communities in the same way either.

Gita Ljubicic 11:00

For a while, I was kind of uncomfortable with the fact that we would change which framework we were really following, depending on the community and the project, because it feels maybe like, that’s not it’s disingenuous, this is how I see it is that that is important.

Like we need to follow community leadership, and we need to follow what is most, what resonates most for that particular community. So I started exploring this more in our project in Gjoa Haven.

And at that time, I had been reading and also talking with Janet Tamalik McGrath, who developed the Qaggiq Model. And the qaggiq is a metaphor for a large kind of communal igloo that was built for larger gatherings.

And so she has this Qaggiq Model that she developed with an Elder from Rankin Inlet. And it focuses on kind of four pillars of: homelands, language, culture, and living histories.

And so by thinking about how all those four elements come into any research that you can engage in research following Inuit values, and respecting Inuit connection to the land and language and valuing those oral histories as well.

So she has a book on that, and I highly recommend for anyone interested. And from that, she talks about the qaggiq dialogue, which I identify with even more, which is which is particularly a way for Inuit and non-Inuit, following Inuit values, and following Inuit leadership, qallunaat or non-Inuit people really like listening and then also seeing where they can contribute, like where it’s appropriate to contribute.

So that’s really the qaggiq dialogue is really about cross-cultural dialogue, and also intergenerational dialogue and relational accountability.

So we really drew on that for our caribou project in Gjoa Haven, where it was learning about caribou according to Inuit knowledge, but then we’ve more recently been working with Pond Inlet and the Sikumiut Management Committee through one of my students.

And so they have developed the Sikumiut model of… and it was also really about rethinking the role of outside researchers, and kind of repositioning Inuit as leaders in the research and where non-Inuit might fit in.

And in this case, it’s more, like as a mentorship role, depending on what is of priority to the community in Arviat, we’re working on a different project.

And there the Aqqiumavvik Society has developed their own research model. And so there we follow the Aajiiqatigiingniq model, which is really about, you know, following Inuit values and Inuit knowledge and building consensus on whatever the topic is.

And again, making sure that there’s meaningful relationships, that you’re building a shared understanding, that you’re focusing on lived experiences, and that you’re really working together to reflect those collective experiences through discussion and consensus.

Andrea Reid 14:02

A community-based approach to me really means that research needs to be addressing needs and interests of communities that we work with, or urban Indigenous Peoples that we work with. Our centre for Indigenous fisheries is positioned to do just that.

So every project that we’ve undertaken to date are ones that Nations have brought to our door, not the reverse. We haven’t come into community contexts looking to undertake our own research agendas.

And so that’s the really key piece of it for me, but also it’s about how we move through the work that individuals, communities, organizations are integrated, are a part of the process from, from the beginning through to the end.

So from defining the questions, to how we do the work, how we spend our time on the land and on the water, to what we do with the new knowledge that we generate together.

Nathan Cardinal 15:07

We bring knowledge holders together, whether there are scientific knowledge holders or Indigenous Knowledge Holders, they began to see each other as experts and are able to talk as experts about what they’re seeing.

And there’s a reciprocal respect that gets generated. And that is opening the door for the values-based shifting that needs to happen within Western systems to be able to engage and think about Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous ways of being that’s different, that is able to support more informed decision making, or thinking about Elder Dr. Albert Marshall and, and Two-Eyed Seeing or many similar concepts which, which exist with other Nations and communities across Canada, about how we make decisions and using knowledge to help us make a more informed decision.

Andrea Reid 15:56

A key teaching that I’ve come to know through learning from Mi’kmaw Elder Dr. Albert Marshall, is that of Etuaptmumk, Two-Eyed Seeing, and that is the gift of multiple perspectives.

But we see that reflected across so many different contexts around the world where there are means of bringing together these ways of knowing and allowing for multiple kinds of information, understandings to inform on a, on a shared problem.

Karen Beazley 16:33

It’s gonna take a while to practice what, what those look like and how those work because it is new to us, in many ways.

And before we can work together to see both things, both sides together, to see with two eyes, for the betterment of both, you know, to see with Western scientific and Indigenous eyes, bringing the best of both worlds.

I think those of us who are well educated in the Western tradition, will need to take a step back and really listen, really listen, and learn first, to the Indigenous perspective.

Barbara Wall 17:15

Regarding the terminology, it’s so difficult to use a phrase to capture that process. I think we all kind of… those of us that are, are maybe practitioners of these, of the, of both knowledge systems struggle to find a word or a phrase in English that can truly capture that methodology, as you said.

I’m not a fluent speaker, I’m just a baby learner of Anishinaabemowin. And I think that there must be some phrase that would speak to Anishinaabe practitioners of both knowledge systems. I don’t know that phrase.

I think you know, Willie Ermine speaks of ethical space. And an Albert Marshall speaks of Two-Eyed Seeing, others speak of I guess building on the ethical space concepts to the Guswenta (Kaswentha) space in using the Two Row Wampum.

One of the, one of the phrases or metaphors that speaks to me is what Robin Kimmerer writes about in the Three Sisters garden metaphor. And I like this because of all the connections between a garden, and cultivating, and intention, and nurturing relationship that goes on within the whole concept of, of gardening.

I like the metaphor because it’s truly culturally grounded in a long-standing agricultural process that speaks not only to Anishinaabe but to Haudenosaunee and all throughout North America and into MesoAmerica.

Essentially what this metaphor is based on is that knowledges, our knowledges come from the earth. And the corn in the Three Sisters garden. So the corn, the beans, and the squash all represent different elements of this, this methodology.

And that the corn is planted first. It is the Elder and it… in this metaphor represents Indigenous knowledges, Indigenous ecological knowledges. And then next comes, within this process of cultivating, comes when Western knowledge systems, scientific knowledge systems that are represented by the beans.

And if you’ve grown a Three Sisters garden, if you’ve grown pole beans, you know how they wind up and grow up towards the sun using a structure. And in the Three Sisters garden, the corn is the structure for the beans to climb on.

But the corn can also be the structure on which to guide the knowledge symbiosis. And then comes the squash, planted last, and the squash creates that ethical space. In the literal Three Sisters garden, the squash creates shade, and retains moisture, repels pests and, and nurtures both the beans and the corn.

And then when Kimmerer speaks about this metaphor, there’s the Fourth Sister. And that Fourth Sister is the practitioners: those that work to create a symbiotic relationship between the knowledge systems.

So how do you put that into a phrase? How do you put that into one word? Right? I just spoke for five minutes about that process. I think that that process of, of growing, of cultivating, of creating that ethical space is what’s necessary to allow those knowledge systems to intersect and see those commonalities between the knowledge systems and then to interact in an ethical and respectful and productive way.

Exit guitar music 23:54