Antoine and Takach present at Congress 2019

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By: 
RRU Staff
Geo Takach and Asma-na-hi Antoine

Building on their SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grant work, School of Communication and Culture blended BAPC Program Head Geo Takach (primary investigator) and Indigenous Education and Student Services Manager Asma-na-hi Antoine (collaborator) presented their research at the annual conference of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada (ESAC) held in conjunction with the 2019 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at UBC June 3 to 5.

Takach and Antoine’s research aims to explore how interweaving Indigenous ways of knowing and Western “scientific” methods can not only improve policy and practice on the sustainable development of natural-resource projects, but also advance reconciliation in Canada.

Takach and Antoine’s case study is rooted in the ongoing conflict over oil pipelines and the protection of coastal waters in BC, accented by Canadians’ identified need to redress the ongoing damages of colonialism to First Peoples in this country. This study assesses current scholarly literature on Indigenous ways of knowing, co-managing resource projects, and other relevant fields to identify and suggest best practices that can serve the needs of both sustainable resource development and Indigenous reconciliation in Canada.

Their findings on interweaving Indigenous and settler/immigrant knowledges include the following:

  • Appropriately linking Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in resource development projects can help Canadians advance both the protection of water, and respect and redress for First Peoples and their traditional territories.
  • How this linking of knowledges is communicated and understood (including linguistic nuances) may be the most important factor of all. This speaks to the power of discourse to shape how we relate to, and treat, our natural environments.
  • ‘Integration’, frequent in the literature, is problematic even if well-meant, because it invokes prior imbalances of power and assimilation by settler science so that distinct identities of Indigenous knowledges are no longer recognizable. A paradigm shift is required to replace Eurocentric ways of knowing with a more holistic approach contextualized by Indigenous knowledge systems.
  • We can reframe this linking as a process in which the originality and core identity of each individual knowledge system remains valuable in itself, and is not diluted through its combination with other types of knowledge. This suggests interweaving, as in the traditional Indigenous metaphor of a basket, where different weaves remain discernible, but also combine to create a greater whole.

According to Takach and Antoine, some best practices for communicators seeking to interweave Indigenous and settler knowledges drawn from the literature include the following:

  • Acknowledging a need to redistribute power and that environmental protection is part of Indigenous self-determination
  • Referring to Indigenous people as to acknowledge their rights and title (not merely as ‘stakeholders’)
  • Staying open to multiple perspectives, or ‘two-eyed seeing’
  • Including process, relationships and language, not just empirical data, in the definition of ‘knowledge’
  • Sharing oral narratives and autobiographies
  • Using the frames of resilience and biodiversity

The conference is an opportunity for the research duo to continue conversations with colleagues from across the country, says Takach.

"Hopefully the dialogue will spread, in service of efforts at environmental protection as well as greater respect and restitution for Indigenous Peoples in Canada––two issues that we believe are profoundly intertwined. Scholars can play a real leadership role here.”

The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences is Canada’s largest gathering of scholars across disciplines. It draws 8,000 academics, researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and students to share findings, refine ideas and build partnerships that will help shape the Canada of tomorrow. 

Takach is now working on a documentary film, aided by Antoine and research assistant, Master of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication graduate Kyera Cook, exploring how interweaving arts-based research and traditional ecological knowledge can help to create communications to encourage ‘environmental reconciliation’ in Canada and beyond.