Indigenous science

Person sitting on rocks looking up at sky. A feather image is on top.

Indigenous science is a distinct, time-tested, and methodological knowledge system that can enhance and complement western science. Indigenous science is about the knowledge of the environment and knowledge of the ecosystem that Indigenous Peoples have. It is the knowledge of survival since time immemorial and includes multiple systems of knowledge(s) such as the knowledge of plants, the weather, animal behavior and patterns, birds, and water among others.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Indigenous Science Division

The new Indigenous Science Division (ISD) at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is an Indigenous-led division created in January 2022 to advance reconciliation in ECCC’s science and research activities. The division is under the leadership of Anishinaabe scholar, Dr. Myrle Ballard, from the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Myrle Ballard photographed in front of South Indian Lake, Manitoba.

Dr. Myrle Ballard

The mandate of this new team is to bridge, braid, and weave Indigenous science with western science approaches to inform and enhance decision-making. These efforts are guided by the importance of Indigenous science indicators and perspectives such as Repatriation, Reconciliation, Renewal, Respect, Reciprocity, Responsibility and Relationships. The specific objective of the division is to develop and apply an Indigenous lens to ECCC’s science, policy, and program activities via Dr. Ballard’s new Three-Eyed Seeing Framework. Three-Eyed Seeing draws on the importance of Indigenous science and governance systems including Natural Law, Mother Earth Law, Language Law and Traditional Law.

Two-Eyed and Three-Eyed Seeing/Three Voices

Two-Eyed Seeing, developed by Dr. Albert Marshall, is about seeing with both eyes to bridge Indigenous knowledge and western science together. Three-Eyed Seeing/Three-Voices is about adding another Indigenous element to Two-Eyed seeing, which is that Indigenous Peoples have responsibilities as environmental stewards to speak for ‘All Our Relations’. In the Indigenous worldview, we believe that we are directly related to the land, the water, the plants and the animals and that we have a responsibility to speak for those relations if they cannot speak for themselves. Hence a third eye, or third Voice, is needed. Three-Eyed Seeing is a brand new, NSERC award winning framework (Ballard 2022).

Two gentlemen – Knowledge Holders – sitting in a boat on a lake.

Knowledge Holders who know how the lake behaves and the characteristics of the lake. In the Indigenous worldview the lake is a living entity. The Knowledge Holders are stewards of this lake.

Other foundational concepts

Bridging is about fostering awareness, understanding, and recognition of Indigenous science as a distinct and equal science to western science approaches. Bridging is accomplished through mutual respect, repatriation, relationship building, engagement activities, and the development of learning resources.

Braiding is about bringing together different ways of knowing and being. For the ISD team, this refers to the braiding of Indigenous science and western science systems to achieve a wholistic understanding of the environment through while maintaining the integrity of each knowledge system. Braiding is founded on all of the Indigenous science indicators included in the bridging as well as reciprocity, renewal, and mutual learning and collective benefit(s) of science outcomes.

Weaving is about all of the Indigenous science indicators involved in bridging and braiding as well as the inclusion of self-determined Indigenous methodologies, research paradigms, and worldview. Weaving involves appreciating and applying Indigenous science tools to inform approaches to environmental issues and species management in ways that align with the approaches specified by Indigenous Nations, governments, specific communities and international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF; 154 kB). Weaving is the path of Reconciliation.

Arrows (described below) representing foundational concepts.

Text description

Graphic built of 3 arrow sections representing the 3 foundational concepts:

  1. dark green arrow with solid, straight line above a squiggly line representing a “bridge” over water
  2. dark blue arrow with 2 intertwined lines in a braid representing “braiding”
  3. light green arrow with 2 lines intertwined representing a “weave”

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