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Full Transcript: Introduction and Listening Guide

Intro guitar music 0:00
Deborah McGregor 0:07

Aanii boozhoo everybody. I’m not sure if this is morning, or afternoon, or evening, or the middle of the night, or very early in the morning where you’ll be listening to this, for this podcast series, but I want to welcome you to it. My name is Deborah McGregor.

I am Anishinaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, I’m actually sitting in my community today. And I’m happy to introduce this, what it really is, is a series of conversations that were then converted into a podcast series that we thought would be helpful for you, in terms of engaging with this material.

So you don’t have to read: you could sweep the floor, you could pet your dog, while you’re listening to this podcast, you could be going for a walk in the natural world, which is what I would encourage you to do. So this series, “Speaking Across Knowledge Systems” is an important series, especially in the times that we’re, we’re living in.

So literally, we are speaking and recording this introduction for you on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, 2023. The theme of this, the third, National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is “listening”. That’s the theme. And really this, this podcast series really encourages you to embrace that. And to listen.

In this series of conversation, we work at sharing how different knowledge systems relate to each other. And the only way that different knowledges really can respectfully, ethically, and appropriately relate to each other is through people. People need to engage, people have conversations with each other, people develop relationships with each other.

And that’s what’s being shared in this… in these series of conversations. So we’re hoping – hope you enjoy them and and really hope that you embrace what the Truth and Reconciliation Day is about this year and any other year – is about listening and hearing the stories of people who who really are working towards trying to ensure a sustainable, earth and, and planet and all its life or for all of us.

That’s, those are the folks who make up the knowledge, the knowledge stream work. So what is the “knowledge stream”? What is – What am I saying when I talk about that? So this, this series as part of a broader project called Conservation is Reconciliation. And it’s very, its main purpos is: how can we look at reconciliation, which historically didn’t have a very positive relationship with Indigenous Peoples – conservation. In fact, there’s a subfield called colonial conversation.

This project tried to and worked, I shouldn’t say try to, it worked towards trying to reorient that kind of relationship towards one of reconciliation. And one of the ways to do that is through engaging with Indigenous Peoples and knowledge systems. That’s actually one of the 10 principles laid out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Another important part of this series also speaks to the role of how Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge systems can work together. And again, the way that that happens is through engagement with people. And we feel that we’re able to deliver that to at least plant a seed, give you food for thought, provide you with some ideas about how that work can happen. So I was… there was different streams that were set up as part of this project, I was the lead for the Knowledge System Stream.

And the Knowledge System Stream members made up of scholars, researchers, some students, government folks who are, who are really wanting to engage with Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge systems, wanted to, wanted to contribute in ways that was not about the kind of thing that we do all the time as academics, which is read stuff, write stuff and hope somebody reads it. And something good happens from that.

We really wanted to provide a forum, a forum of dialogue, where you could really listen and engage with the work, hear the voices of people, their stories, their experiences, and learn from themin a more accessible way. And we’re really hoping that this work can be also utilized as a way to share with your family and friends to learn more, but also as curriculum, to use either in the classroom or other kinds of learning, other kind of learning environments.

So I want to end this before introducing the very, I’ll say spectacular, he’s very humble. Daniel, who was the RA (Research Assistant), he was a law student at the time who produced the series. Incredible learning curve, but I had complete trust in him. To be able to do this, I have to say I was so happy that he was able to just, just learn this and, and go with it.

And I have to say I’m, I’m thrilled about that. But in terms of knowledge systems, and what you’re going to hear in this series is, there’s different ways to engage for people to engage, and different ways that Indigenous and Western knowledge systems interact with each other. There’s no formula, there’s no one plus one equals two, I find in my work, which I’ve been at this for decades. Folks want a checklist, they want a formula, it’s not like that.

And what you’re going to learn is, there’s a variety of different ways. And a lot of it has to do with who you are, on your own positionality. And the kind of work you put into relationships with, with Indigenous Peoples. So we hope that you will be inspired by this podcast series. And now we’ll turn it over to Dan.

Daniel De Kok 5:58

Thanks, Deb. So I’m Daniel de Kok. And when I first met Deb, this was in the middle of the pandemic, I was a new student, newly returned to Canada. And I didn’t quite know how lucky I was to start on this, this project. And it began with that asking me to put on a panel, a virtual panel discussion about the intersections between Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous knowledge systems.

And at the time, this was in the middle of the pandemic, as a student, there were a lot of these sort of digital panel discussions. And I felt like trying something maybe, you know, a little different, and I instead offered to put on a podcast series. And at the time, I didn’t even know I hadn’t even listened to a podcast I do now. But I knew that people were listening to podcasts. So I thought this might be a cool alternative. And that’s how we ended up with this series here.

And I ended up hosting 10 conversations with members of the knowledge stream that Deb just described. And there are Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics, practitioners, and they really opened up with me about how they approach, how they understand work, with these diverse knowledge systems.

And I came to this project really knowing very little, having very little relevant knowledge or experience about any of these topics. And so I treated each conversation as an opportunity to just have the type of straightforward conversation I would’ve had if the cameras hadn’t been rolling, or if the audio wasn’t recording.

And I decided to just ask very simple and straightforward questions about the fundamental – the basics of what I was reading and hearing about. Asking questions like, you know: What is conservation? What is sustainability? What is Two-Eyed Seeing, and always going back to this idea of what is Indigenous knowledge?

And because of the simplicity of my questions, and that my own lack of experience, I think, really anyone can can listen to the series. I think, I always approached them from the perspective of someone who just didn’t know. And all I could do was sit back and listen. And, you know, in that way, I sort of became an audience member myself, you know, I just tried to sit back with you, the broader readership or listenership and, and just listen to these really distinguished, erudite, articulate people.

And so, you know, beginning the series, don’t feel bad or embarrassed if you too, you know, like me are a beginner, or a novice just starting out on ideas as big and as broad as, as even reconciliation because this podcast really is for you, as it was, in many ways for my own growth and learning as a, as a settler and as a student. So each of these episodes touches on a common theme, a common concern that ran through the conversations.

If you want to focus on a particular issue, or particular topic that reoccurs throughout the conversations, I think you can, you can find that and really see how the 10 Stream members all differently approach this issue. And you can really see the multifaceted, complex nature of some of these issues. And I think it really showcases the diversity and variety of the perspectives of the Knowledge Stream.

And it really just shows how these issues that are so important to us, aren’t easily dealt with. They aren’t easily described. They are easily encapsulated in a soundbite. These are really complicated topics and they deserve to be treated with respect and they deserve to be treated and given your attention and time.

So I hope these thematic episodes allow listeners to, to engage on a deeper level with many of these really important topics. So thanks very much for listening, I hope you enjoy. It’s been a long time in the making – about two years now. So we’re really excited to share this with everyone here.

Deborah McGregor 10:25

Thank you. So Indigenous knowledge systems are rich, very diverse, just as Indigenous Peoples are, they’re held in communities and people. And Indigenous folks are very diverse, in Canada and elsewhere.

And I think one of the most important things to start off a conversation about Indigenous knowledge systems is that Indigenous Peoples are, have been here for thousands of years, I’m in my territory where my ancestors were for thousands of years, and hopefully future generations and into the future.

And we were complete societies. So we had knowledge, we had laws, we had governance, history, our own education system, and Indigenous knowledge is embedded within these systems. So I’m an Associate Professor at York University at Osgoode Hall Law School, and a faculty of Environmental Urban Change, and a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice. And I operate in these different knowledge systems.

So in the Indigenous knowledge systems, or more specifically Anishinaabe knowledge system, we have ways that we produce knowledge, ways that we share knowledge, ways that we validate knowledge, who’s considered to be an expert, what our systems look like. And that’s how we generate knowledge that others are very, very interested in now and very key to decolonization and reconciliation.

I also operate within the Western knowledge systems, where we produce knowledge in very particular ways in the academy, who’s considered to be an expert, how we share it, how it’s validated, what it looks like, which is very often through teaching and publications. And in this podcast series, we’re hoping to share in a different way, oral tradition and people listened.

And you’re going to get out of these stories that these kind people shared, and that Dan thoughtfully put together the thematic episodes, that you’ll have this opportunity to listen to, and in a way that Indigenous peoples did for thousands of years. But what it means when we’re talking about Indigenous knowledge systems is peoples come together. People come together to have these conversations, because we’re part of these broader, we’re part of these broader systems.

And understanding Indigenous knowledge as part of a system helps, I think, mitigate this tendency to want to extract knowledge as data from Indigenous Peoples, into another knowledge system, when we know that Indigenous Peoples were societies for thousands of years, we operate within systems that you actually need people to engage.

And when you’re engaging with people, you’re engaging with their knowledge systems as well. So a little bit about this, this project is: Conservation through Reconciliation is an Indigenous-led network that brings together a diverse range of partners to support Indigenous-led conservation, including Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), and transform the conservation sector. In my view, that’s what decolonization and reconciliation should move towards.

And every person that’s been part of this, part of this broader project has been committed to that from every RA (Research Assistant) to leadership and any of the partners and collaborators have made that commitment. The Knowledge Stream, part of this broader project, examine how protected areas can better address Indigenous knowledge and their governance and decision making and how to share that again, because Indigenous peoples are also decision makers.

The circle of scholars or practitioners foster the bridging of Indigenous and Western scientific knowledge, as well as bringing a variety of place-based, Indigenous knowledge systems together, in stories and experiences, that we think and believe that you will, that you will learn from.

I think one of the most important lessons that I learned over my 30-plus year career in this area, is that knowledge isn’t just about knowledge as we think about it like as a book or data. It’s about, really it’s about people. It’s about wanting to believe that you are going to be a good ancestor and ensure that future generations can, can live, have something to look forward to and have a sustainable life and that we’re committed to sustaining all life for future generations.

Exit guitar music 14:51