Sept. 16, 2019

Join ii' taa'poh'to'p to hear important voices on truth and reconciliation

Tewa artist and scholar Gregory Cajete kicks off Indigenous Knowledge Public Lecture Series on Sept. 25


Nicola Waugh, University Relations

Pioneer of Indigenous education and professor at the University of New Mexico, Gregory Cajete speaks Sept. 25 at the first lecture in the Indigenous Knowledge Public Lecture Series.

Pioneer of Indigenous education and professor at the University of New Mexico, Gregory Cajete speaks

Gregory Cajete

Building on the success of its first year, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is presenting six lectures with internationally renowned scholars from September to April. This year, they are partnering with faculties and units across campus to further their vision toward genuine truth and reconciliation at UCalgary.

Dr. Gregory Cajete, PhD, the first speaker in the series, will join us on Sept. 25 for his lecture, Indigenous Science Education: A Foundation for Sustainable Education and Community, presented in partnership with the Faculty of Science.

Look to the mountain

“Look to the mountain” may not be the first piece of advice you’d consider when working through a problem, but it’s a common metaphor used by the Tewa people of New Mexico. “It represents the past, present and future, and the processes related to the natural world,” explains Cajete.

“Whatever is before you, look at it as if it’s from the perspective of the mountain. Consider where you have come from, where you’re at now, and the possibilities of where you may go.”

A pioneer of Indigenous education and professor at the University of New Mexico, Cajete has been working to harmonize Indigenous ways of knowing with western science and pedagogy for decades.

The nature of Indigenous science 

Look to the mountain is just one of many metaphors and stories that make up the foundation of Indigenous science — something Cajete explored throughout his academic career. Indigenous science is rooted in understanding the relationship and interdependence between humans and the natural world, and has been a central concept for Indigenous ways of knowing for thousands of years.

“The focus is not so much on the objectification of nature, but finding ways to relate to nature,” says Cajete. “Ways that sustain both human beings and nature at the same time — a mutual, reciprocal relationship.”

Not surprisingly, the concept of Indigenous science is intimately linked to sustainability. “Native science in all its representations has always focused on ensuring survivability and the sense of how to live in a place well,” says Cajete. “And that’s a perspective that tends to be a part of the narrative, and the future, of all Indigenous education.”

There is no denying that ecological shifts on our planet have reached a critical point, and shifts must be made, both societally and institutionally. According to Cajete, the principals of Indigenous science will help to bring us back to a state of true relationship and resonance with the natural world.

The role of post-secondary institutions

How can we weave Indigenous science into curricula here at UCalgary? While Cajete is clear that it will take time for institutions to “recalibrate,” action must be taken to incorporate relational education and ecological thinking and philosophy across all disciplines. Breaking down traditional hierarchical teaching relationships will allow for more collaborative experiences, which make space for our educational paradigms to evolve from the pursuit of vocation to the pursuit of consciousness.

“'Business as usual' is not only no longer palatable, it’s no longer feasible,” he says. “We need to shift our focus to the whole, as opposed to the parts, and integrate different systems and their ways of knowing. True interdisciplinarity — which most institutions are not set up for.”

Now, more than ever, Cajete’s call to look to the mountain will remind us of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Hear his talk, Indigenous Science Education: A Foundation for Sustainable Education and Community, on Sept. 25, 3 to 5 p.m. in Gallery Hall, TFDL.

Register for this, and all of the series events running September to April, including Chief Lee Crowchild, Anita Lafferty, Tanya Talaga, Esther Tailfeathers, and Harold Johnson.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization. Stay in touch with ii’ taa’poh’to’p’s activities and learn more about opportunities for education and development.

Editor's note: This article was originally published April 5, 2019.