Métis people have played a significant role in the historical development of Canada and have a continued role in Canada’s future development. Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and languages throughout the world have historically supported harmonious interaction with the natural world. In Canada, traditional Métis knowledge systems based on ethics of reciprocity, respectful relationships, and interconnectedness with the natural world evolved within Métis communities. The disconnection of Métis families and individuals from traditional lifestyles, as a result of attendance at residential schools and other assimilation policies, fractured many family relationships, and subsequently, traditional methods of passing on knowledge.
Métis have a long association with pragmatic action. We carry philosophical perspectives rooted in tribal and Western Eurocentric ancestries that provided the means of thriving in a transitioning world. In this century, we all face many new challenges brought about by expansive human population, industrial development, environmental degradation and a rapidly changing climate, among other things. We have never been more challenged to find creative solutions that will contribute to human survival.
In contemporary times, traditional Indigenous environmental knowledge systems are often dismissed by Western Eurocentric sciences in their relationships with large-scale industrial development, even though this systemic development is known to be unsustainable including through depleting the world’s natural resources. Ecological crises facing humanity, such as global warming, pollution, accelerated extinction of life forms, and degraded ecosystems, are forcing nations of the world to consider implications on our collective survival. Ironically, while Canadian society lives in the midst of ecological turmoil, research indicates increasing numbers of students disengaging from science education as they move from elementary to secondary education and beyond (Fawcett, 1991; Canadian Council on Learning, 2007 b). The trend away from science education is even more apparent with Aboriginal students (Aikenhead, 2006; Canadian Council on Learning, 2007 b). In the search for solutions to degradation of ecosystems and to the trend of young people away from science education, traditional environmental knowledge and practices of Métis can play a significant role in connecting Métis youth and other learners to science education, and subsequently, to improving their understanding and decision-making abilities concerning the future of our natural environment.
Learning about the land from a Métis cultural perspective requires interactive hands-on experiences with the natural world along with learning ancestral knowledge that results in personal learning experiences. Traditional Aboriginal environmental knowledge systems require full personal acknowledgement, commitment, and involvement of the learner to make meaning from a given experience. Making meaning ranges from understanding personal impact resulting from a discovery to understanding implications of the discovery on other living and non-living things.
Holistic worldviews include aspects balancing intellectual, physical, spiritual and affective knowledges. Western science does not typically support affective (emotional responses, value systems) and spiritual domains of knowledge. Researchers applying the scientific method strive to eliminate affective and spiritual domains from influencing an understanding of the discovery. This has happened as a result of a long history of Western European dominance in the study of nature. Since the seventeenth century “The Christian religion taught that the human spirit was of supernatural origin, its mental and moral faculties beyond the reach of natural law and, hence, outside the realm of science.” (Bowler & Morus, 2005, p. 299) The discipline of science has not changed its position with respect to this premise over the past few centuries. But, as human society evolves to include respect for Indigenous knowledge systems, such as the recent United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 (United Nations, 2006), there are new opportunities to reconsider the labels attached to disciplines studying the natural world and how we can include the study of human relationships with the natural world.
Métis perspectives of the land extend beyond basic science, biology, chemistry, physics or geology (intellectual and physical) and extend into affective (emotional) and belief- based explorations (spiritual) including community ethics or cultural worldviews. Including affective and spiritual experiential opportunities is essential to achieving a holistic view understanding of life from a Métis perspective. Learning Métis traditional environmental knowledge requires a lifelong effort to build and balance an understanding of cognitive, physical, affective and spiritual aspects of a discovery, experience or set of knowledge.
Aikenhead, G. (2006). Towards Decolonizing the Pan-Canadian Science Framework. Retrieved 2008 йил 13-April from University of Saskatchewan: http://www.usask.ca/education/people/aikenhead/CJSMTE_decolonizing.pdf
Bowler, P. J., & Morus, I. R. (2005). Making Modern Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Canadian Council on Learning. (2007 b February). The cultural divide in science education for aboriginal learners. Retrieved 2008 13-April from canadian council on learning: http://www.ccl-cca.ca/CCL/Reports/LessonsInLearning/LinL20070116_Ab_sci_edu.htm
Fawcett, R. (1991 August). Science Education in Canada. Retrieved 2008 13-April from Government of Canada: http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/bp265-e.htm