'A quest for wisdom': How two-eyed seeing mixes Indigenous knowledge and Western science in N.S.

‘A quest for knowledge’: How two-eyed seeing mixes Indigenous data and Western science in N.S.


On a sizzling day within the peak of summer time, Tracy Marshall and I stood on the banks of the Midway River, watching because the trickle of muddy water slowly widened with the incoming tide from the Bay of Fundy. 

Tracy and I had began speaking about collaborating on a documentary a number of months earlier about two-eyed seeing, or etuaptmumk, which makes an attempt to carry collectively the lens of Indigenous data and that of Western science, to see the world from each views.

However with the delays brought on by the pandemic, it was solely in the course of July that we have been capable of speak in individual for the primary time, as we watched native fisherman Darren Porter winching his boat into the river, in preparation for work on a venture guided by the ideas of two-eyed seeing. 

It was becoming that Tracy, a science pupil from Potlotek First Nation who additionally works with the Bras d’Or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative, and I, a settler journalist with a deal with the atmosphere, had met on this riverbank to work on a venture on two-eyed seeing, which started as a mission to show science otherwise however has change into an method that is reshaping science itself.

“Some folks name it a real science,” mentioned Porter, as we stepped into his boat. “To me, it is a quest for knowledge, ecosystem knowledge.”

Lachlan Riehl, proper, watches crew member Erica Porter drop traps into the Midway River. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

On the Midway River, Lachlan Riehl, who oversees monitoring initiatives within the Avon River watershed for the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, watched as members of the crew dropped traps and set out nets, to test for the presence of American eel, tomcod and gaspereau.

A tidal barrier as soon as blocked the circulation of water upriver at this website, however in 2017, that barrier failed, permitting seawater to maneuver via the ecosystem.

In 2019, the barrier was restored, regardless of recommendation from scientists to go away the river open. A coalition of researchers from Acadia College, native fishermen like Porter, and workers from the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq at the moment are monitoring the system, to see what impact that barrier is having on fish species.

“We have come collectively to essentially put the two-eyed seeing method on this,” mentioned Riehl. “So, principally, a suggestion will come ahead, from the science we have performed, to the chiefs on what to do with that.”

Because the crew began hauling in traps, they handed wands over the our bodies of wriggling eels and silvery tomcod. When the scanners beeped, they recorded the tag numbers, a course of that allowed them to trace what number of occasions fish have handed via the barrier, which in flip offers a way of how a lot the barrier is impacting the well being of the species.

“After which we’ve a number of species in a number of rivers, then we’ve partial obstacles, full obstacles, absolutely open programs, throughout the examine,” mentioned Porter. “That is while you put all of it collectively, as a result of we’re all working collectively, we share the whole lot.”

Elder Albert Marshall, at his dwelling in Eskasoni, with Tracy Marshall (no relation). (Moira Donovan/CBC)

The roots of two-eyed seeing

Using a two-eyed seeing method on rivers feeding into the Bay of Fundy has formed how the analysis has been carried out, and the priorities shaping the work.

But the roots of this method might be traced to Unama’ki Cape Breton, which is the place Tracy and I discovered ourselves in August, on the dwelling in Eskasoni of Elder Albert Marshall.

“As fantastic as science is, science can not see nature from an Aboriginal lens,” Albert instructed us, as we sat round his kitchen desk.

“And the large distinction there’s that science sees nature as an object; the Aboriginal lens sees nature as a topic. As a result of it is via the language, it teaches you that the whole lot is alive, bodily and spiritually.”

Roughly 30 years in the past, round that very same kitchen desk, Marshall — alongside along with his late spouse Murdena Marshall and Cape Breton College biology professor Cheryl Bartlett — first began speaking about bringing these lenses collectively. 

“I started to pay attention, and to grasp slightly extra the essence of information and the sort of data that we’d like. After which once I checked out myself, sure, I had the language. However I didn’t have the sort of data that I want now,” Marshall mentioned.

“However on the identical time, if I embraced this Eurocentric system, I knew the way it was designed in opposition to me, to eradicate the essence of who I’m. And because the pondering continued, [I thought] there needs to be some effort put in place, to combine or put these two knowledges collectively.”

26:10Two-Eyed Seeing: A Quest for Knowledge

Etuaptmumk: that is Mi’kmaw for Two Eyed Seeing. It is a idea that started with a mission to show science otherwise, however has change into a method of reshaping the follow of science itself. Producers Tracy Marshall and Moira Donovan hint its roots and continued evolution in Mi’kmaki. 26:10

Out of these conversations, Albert coined a phrase for describing the act of bringing these two views into alignment: two-eyed seeing.

“So, it grew to become apparent I want the Western data. However there needs to be some sort of a transformative change performed to it first.”

A part of that transformative change occurred at CBU, the place Bartlett, Murdena Marshall and others ran an integrative science diploma program from 2001 to 2010, combining land-based training with time within the classroom. Since then, this lens has unfold throughout the nation, showing within the insurance policies of the Canadian Institute for Well being Analysis and the Pure Sciences and Engineering Analysis Council, in addition to in establishments such because the College of British Columbia.

Bartlett, who’s now retired, mentioned it has been a delight to see two-eyed seeing adopted so broadly, as a result of in her personal expertise as a scientist, it is proven her that there are alternative ways of trying on the world.  “[Mainstream science] has its strengths, and they’re profound strengths, but it surely additionally has some profound weaknesses, and a type of main weaknesses is the exclusion of subjectivity,” she mentioned.

“From my expertise working with elders and educators and college students from the Mi’kmaw communities, I can see how in partnership, Mi’kmaw science might help counterbalance these tendencies in western science, however not simply that. There are such a lot of strengths inside Mi’kmaw science and Indigenous science that our world desperately wants to listen to about, and revitalize, for the good thing about everybody.”

Cheryl Bartlett labored with Albert and Murdena Marshall to develop a four-year integrative science program at Cape Breton College, combining conventional data and Western science. (Submitted by Cheryl Bartlett)

Within the forests across the saltwater Bras d’Or Lake, a two-eyed seeing method is getting used to information biodiversity work. Tristan Simon, this system supervisor for the Maliamu’kik Msit Ko’kmanaq venture (which interprets to ‘taking good care of all our relationships’) on the Unama’ki Institute of Pure Assets, mentioned the venture goals to guard species in danger by conserving the habitat by which they reside.

“The one challenge with a two-eyed seeing [approach] is typically it could actually simply be one thing you write down and one thing you faux you do,” mentioned Simon. “We actually need to attempt to keep away from that, so we wished to weigh each forms of data, each forms of studying and maintain them equally into our venture.”

To carry them equally, Simon mentioned they’ve made certain any conventional data holders who’ve contributed to the venture are compensated the identical as different consultants, in recognition of their data having the identical worth. The insights of information holders have additionally been used to form the place researchers conduct their fieldwork, in on the lookout for at-risk species like pine marten and lynx.

“With our lynx work, we’ve like a particular transect that we’ve to observe, and that is the actually Western science a part of it,” mentioned Shayla Nickerson, the wildlife biologist for the venture.

However Nickerson mentioned when she goes out with data holder Joef Bernard, they typically go off path to go monitoring. “What makes that knowledge that is exterior of what we have set much less vital than the information I believe is vital to gather?” she asks.

“It is like, my first day, I used to be like, ‘oh, we’re losing a lot time going off and discovering these items’. However now it simply does not make any sense why I used to be pondering that method. It is simply as vital.”

Tracy Marshall, left talking with Tristan Simon, centre, and Shayla Nickerson concerning the Maliamu’kik Msit Ko’kmanaq venture within the Bras d’or Lake biosphere. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

‘It woke up one thing in me’

For Tracy, two-eyed seeing has been vital as properly. Sitting throughout from each other at a picnic desk in a park in Unama’ki, Tracy instructed me how, rising up, she went to high school off-reserve, the place she wasn’t uncovered to conventional data and sometimes struggled academically. However when she began a program on the Nova Scotia Group School that mixed conventional data and educational science, one thing shifted.

“It actually clicked with me, I used to be the most effective college students there,” mentioned Tracy. “My encounter with [two-eyed seeing] was like seeing my significance. It woke up one thing in me that I did not even know was sleeping.”

And as two-eyed seeing helps information a shift towards bringing extra conventional data into the classroom in her personal group and past, Tracy hopes extra folks will come to see the knowledge on this method.

“Within the final 5 or so years, I’ve seen vital shifts in different folks’s lives. And I’ve seen it in my friends, as they grasp extra onto their conventional methods of realizing, and so they’re studying and so they’re being valued for his or her data. They’re sort of getting out of that stoop, the place they assume that they don’t seem to be adequate,” she mentioned.

“It simply makes me so joyful to see that, as a result of we’re bringing each that conventional data and that Western data collectively, and it is simply … superb to see success price go up greater. Placing these two collectively, we might in all probability save the world, truthfully.”



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