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Presented at the PES Pre-Conference on Indigenous topics, March 2017

 

Is the expression “wisdom philosophy” a tautology, or a contradiction of no consequence? This author subscribes to the view that philosophical practice is, at its core, a quest for wisdom.[1] It is, therefore, not a question of whether but of how it can be made clear to chronically opposed social justice theorists and activists that philosophy has a material say in social change, including concerning the multiply scarred Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationship, which along with law professor Kathleen Mahoney (2015), i’ll insist, is not only historically but currently foundational to Canada.

By arguing for 1) metatheoretical “re-indigenization”[2], e.g. of wisdom as positioned at the heart of philosophical practice, and 2) substantive theoretical “Indigenization”, e.g. of philosophy along ecosocial thinking lines, i present an argument for the very real possibility of long-awaited, mutually sustaining (rather than assimilative) convergences of thought and life for Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and by extension, for philosophy’s continued relevance,[3] including for education, Indigenous and mainstream alike.

I invite Onondaga scholar David Newhouse’s definition of true knowledge as “what helps us to live together well” to step up to a definition of wisdom. For isn’t the latter, rather than traditional epistemological truth or scientific (hence “true”) knowledge, to be attained to, habituated, and relied on if a community is to improve their shared life? I further analyze Nuu-chah-nulth[4] scholar Richard Atleo’s (2005, 2011) tsawalk-principles as ecosocial wisdom that has served his nation well for millennia, and can likewise serve Canadians and humanity as a whole now and in the future. Let us briefly compare the above with European-descended philosophers of environmental orientation.

I side with Jim Lang (2010), who employs Lorraine Code’s (2006) ecological thinking (ET) in his PES 2009 talk to identify educational contexts as, in effect, dynamic social-material ecosystems. Even if quite possibly unbeknownst to or at least unacknowledged (in explicit publications) by these two authors, there exist demonstrable ET resonances with Indigenous philosophies on this continent and elsewhere.[5] Significantly, this allows to “marry”[6] ecologically-minded Western-derived and Indigenous-situated worldviews for an  ecosocially-wise (educational) philosophy.

The understanding that wisdom-searching is indigenous to the philosophical enterprise effects a decisive departure from the “nature-mirroring” detours of Western thought, so aptly deconstructed for their self-serving representationalism by Rorty (1979), a.o., and from the exclusive/exclusionary rationalistic leanings going back to Plato, and never fully transcended, even if resolutely dethroned by a number of revisionist thinkers (see Code, 2006), including Rorty himself, an analytic philosopher by training. The proposed metatheoretical indigenization of wisdom makes like-minded contact with Indigenous wisdom, which some have argued is philosophy proper in an Indigenous paradigm (Cajete, 1994, a.o.); further, the direct practical implementation of said indigenization would correspond with the often noted Indigenous worldview of theory-practice, spirit-mind-body, culture-nature continuity.

As to the substantive theoretical side, the increasingly influential environmental orientation of first-world Canada can be seen as “re-indigenization” by way of earning proper belonging to the land that sustains us, thus by way of touching one’s pre-industrial roots. Then again, it can be seen as “Indigenization” by finding a common language with Indigenous worldviews and peoples, and giving their practice-proven scientific-philosophical insights dignity and worth commensurable with the Euro-American counterparts. Such developments, i propose, are well positioned to effect actual decolonization of thought, and to the extent that the theory-practice link is operationalizable, they can duplicate the recognized be-think-do Indigenous nexus (Atleo, 2005, 2011; Cajete, 1994, a.o.), whereby a professed philosophy is by (Indigenous-paradigm) definition a philosophy as a way of life.

To conclude, the leadership of the re-visioned kind of philosophy in regenerating social interactions would likely quite appropriately suspend Rortyan objections to the role of Kantian philosophy-as-epistemology (per Rorty’s gloss) as the ultimate censor of all scholarship and all of society. It would be organically complemented, and periodically updated, by social justice practice as tactics for the trenches while providing itself an overarching public strategy. If Indigenous/non-Indigenous convergences are realized in thought and life, as projected above, then it would be possible to re-construct in the present time the RCAP-identified “stage of cooperation” (RCAP, 1996) from the time of the fur trade (and earlier), when both local and cross-Atlantic Indigeneities could engage in trade, war and marriage equally fluently and naturally. We can proceed by actualizing a shared respect for the ecosystems that sustain us.

 

REFERENCES

Alfred, Taiaiake (2005) Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division.

Arcilla, René Vincente (2002) Why Aren’t Philosophers and Educators Speaking to Each Other? Educational Theory 52(1), pp.1-11.

Atleo, Umeek E. Richard (2005) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

—————- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Cajete, Gregory (1994) Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of indigenous Education. Kivaki Press.

Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari ([1991]) What Is Philosophy? Transl. from French by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell III. Revised edition. Columbia University Press. Originally published as Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? in 1991 by Les éditions de Minuit, Paris; in English in 1994 by Columbia University Press.

Fricker, Miranda (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Government of Canada (1996) Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume I: Looking Forward, Looking Back. http://www.collections.gc.ca/webarchives/20071115053257/http://ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/rcap/sg/sgmm_e.html

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2006) http://www.residentialschoolssettlement.ca/settlement.html (May 8, 2006).

Lang, James C. (2010) Educational Epistemic Ecosystems: Re-visioning Educational Contexts on Lorraine Code’s Ecological Thinking. In Philosophy of Education 2010, pp. 180-189. Edited by Gert Biesta. http://ojs.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/ pes/article/view/3085/1144

Mahoney, Kathleen (2015) “Canada’s Origin Story”. Royal Society of Canada keynote, Victoria, B.C., November 27, 2015.

Rorty, Richard (1979) Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. NJ: Princeton University Press.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Vols I-V. Canada.

Smith. Linda Tuhiwai (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books.

Stengel, B. S. (2002). Cause for Worry or Agenda for Action? Educational Theory, 52(3), 281–290.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015a) Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC. http://www.trc.ca

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015b) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC. http://www.trc.ca

Van Kirk, Sylvia (1980) Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Watson & Dwyer.

________________________________________

NOTES

[1] But cf. Deleuze & Guattari, What Is Philosophy? for an alternative, though not strictly opposed view.

[2] Lower-case indigenous is taken to mean “belonging to a place”, whereas capitalized Indigenous refers to who/what is currently/formerly colonized.

[3] Thereby augmenting the fecund possibilities that Barbara Stengel shared in her response to Rene Arcilla’s (2002) famous flagging of the alleged breakdown of the philosopher/educator conversation.

[4] a.k.a. Nootka, which is a preferably avoided label.

[5] In addition to Richard Atleo’s (2005, 2011) Nuu-chah-nulth worldview, see Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2012) for the New Zealand Indigenous context. The similarly “environmental” worldview of the Bushmen of Southern Africa, a.k.a. the San people, Basarwa, is articulately cinematographically portrayed in The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980).

[6] See historian Sylvia van Kirk’s Many Tender Ties re the family histories of the fur trade in the Great Lakes region.

Presented at CCA/ACC annual Conference, at Congress 2017, Ryerson U, Toronto, June 30, 2017.

PPT PDF

To bring the philosophical enterprise back to its love-of-wisdom etymological roots is to stake the claim that the search for wisdom is the philosophically minded scholar’s most fundamental imperative-prerogative and positionality. This means a paradigmatic turn in philosophy, among whose increasingly influential tributaries are: environmentalism (R.Carson, 1962; L.Code, 2006), also underscored by “de-growth/post-growth” theorizations (G.d’Alisa et al., eds., 2015); various other social/global justice-oriented streams; and relational thinking broadly defined (W.Heisenberg, 1973; N.Noddings in C.Bingham & A.Sidorkin, 2004/10).

Importantly, re-etymologized philosophy is much more conversant with beliefs and practices that are impressively similar among, e.g., Indigenous peoples of the Americas (R.Atleo, 2005 & 2011; G.Cajete, 1994; Leroy Little Bear, 2000), New Zealand’s Maori (L.T.Smith, 2002), African sages (H.O.Oruka, 1991) and Bushmen (The Gods Must Be Crazy, 1980). Since it is the pair of “wisdom” and “culture”, a.o., that have come to translate “lesser” worlds to superior “civilization” boasting “philosophy”/“science”, the proposed re-etymologization also means (boldly explicating D.Vokey, 2001), re-visioning philosophy as a genre of intellectual insight that forms a continuum across firstfourth worlds, thereby legitimating existing differences as properly paradigmatic. Indeed, the above-mentioned Western and Indigenous epistemic flows converge on a core wisdom message, both sides increasingly recognizing shared similarities (Leroy Little Bear, 2000,2016; Pratt, 2002; Peat, 2005). Such decolonization/(re-)Indigenization of the mind/spirit is expected to be feeding into/off of bodily  decolonization, i.e., on the physical plane, through intersecting material, economic, geographical parameters – all these factors likely steered by Batesonian cyclical causality, rather than the hitherto mainstream-predominant one-way counterpart.

A number of pre-contact societies, relying on their own philosophy-theology-science (quotation marks-reprieved, like Indigenous science – P.Colorado 1988; G.Cajete 2000, a.o.), were fully sustainable and epidemic-free (D.Peat 2005, a.o.). I submit that this historical record, contrasted with the developed world’s progress-/success-compromised one, necessitates academia’s Wisdom Re-Turn, as an overarching culmination in a series of “turns” – affective, relational, etc. Remembering dissenting/wise voices, it is not philosophy in toto (just like science/technology) that is to blame for rationalistic exclusivity and wasteful superiority, and more concretely, for environmental decimation, political-economic hegemony, oppressive patriarchy, or colonialism with its accompanying racism/exploitation. Accountability lies with any digression from the self-explanatory etymological designation by its purveyors, or indeed, retailers.

Ultimately, if the developed world’s professionally disciplined philosophy were to retrace its historical-linguistic trajectory back to wisdom, humans would also be in a much better position to attain to proper belonging by owning-as-caring for, not possessing-as-exploiting the land we are born of: Indigenous/non-Indigenous historically, we all are indi-genous (< Lat. “in+born”) to planet Earth. By accepting our interdependence/ relatedness regarding all that surrounds us as a law and responsibility (Leroy Little Bear 2000, 2016; Tracy Lindberg, 2016, a.o.), pre-industrial paradigms going back to Antiquity and dissident/re-visionary/pioneering thinkers until today (D.Lorimer ed., 1999; W.Heisenberg, 1988) we would be honouring the ontological indigeneity we share with Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere, and giving long-overdue recognition to the millennial practice-proven viability of their cognitive paradigms (Cajete, 1984,2000; D.McGregor, 2004,2008; Atleo, 2005,2011; Peat, 2005). Ergo, co-authoring an actual shared future beyond “reconciliation”.

REFERENCES

Atleo, E. Richard [a.k.a. Umeek] (2004) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver, Toronto: UBC Press.

———- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis. Vancouver, Toronto: UBC Press.

Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Bingham, Charles & Alexander M. Sidorkin, eds (2004/2010) No Education without Relation. With a foreword by Nel Noddings. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Cajete, Gregory (1994) Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education. Skyland, NC: Kivaki Press.

———- (2000) Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. With a foreword by Leroy Little Bear, JD. Don Diego-Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.

Carson, Rachel (1962) Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mufflin.

Code, Lorraine (2006) Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Colorado, Pam (1988) Bridging Native and Western Science. Convergence 21(2/3). Pp?

d’Alisa, Giacomo, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis, eds. (2015) Degrowth: a Vocabulary for a New Era. New York and London: Routledge.

Haraway, Donna (1988) Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), pp. 575-599 (Autumn 1988). Appears in S. Harding, ed., The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies. pp. 81-101. New York & London: Routledge.

Heisenberg, Werner (1973) Tradition in Science. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 29, 10, 4-11 (December 1973).

Little Bear, Leroy (2000) Foreword to Gregory Cajete (2000), pp.ix-xii.

———- (2016) ___________________________Keynote talk at Congress, 2016, University of Calgary, Alberta.

Lorimer, David, ed. (1998) The Spirit of Science: From Experiment to Experience. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books.

McGregor, Deborah (2004) Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainable Development: Towards Coexistence. In Mario Blaser, Harvey A. Feit, and Glenn McRae, eds., In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects and Globalization, pp. ??. Zed/IDRC.

———- (2008) Linking Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science: Aboriginal Perspectives from the 2000 State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 28(1), pp.139-158.

Oruka, Henry Odera (1991) Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy, Nairobi, African Center for Technological Studies (ACTS) Press (also published by E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1990).

Peat, F. David (2005) Blackfoot Physics: A Journey into the Native American Universe. Boston, MA: Weiser Books. First published in 1994 by Fourth Estate, London, UK, reprinted in 1996.

Pratt, Scott L. (2002) Native Pragmatism: Rethinking the Roots of American Philosophy. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) directed by Jamie Uys. Released in South Africa in 1980 by Ster Kinekor Pictures.

Vokey, Daniel (2001) Moral Discourse in a Pluralistic World. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

“Indigenize” by getting close to the land we’re born of – How’s that?! 🙂


The question now, is,

  • Knowing that paradigms like the one mapped by Siobhan Senier (2013) existed,
  • whereby dichotomies around alternative gender, human/nature, and now “dis-ability”
  • did not tear the social fabric,
  • how do we, situated in “developed” countries, can best stitch our societies up?

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Well, “Another Story” started celebrating Columbus-Day-In-Reverse over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend:


photo taken on the eve of — Oct. 9, 2016 Sunday

Canada and the US share the same history with the same implications of celebrating, “being grateful for last year’s harvest” (the official meaning of our Thanksgiving in October, their in November). The connection to land, therefore “settlement” on it when it was neither “discovered” per se, nor terra nullius (Lat. “empty land”) as such.

BUT, history does remember occasions when Indigenous people were invited to celebrate with the newcomers, and there’s also the Indigenous tradition of thanksgiving and renewing relationships with land and every (both “living” and “non-living”) thing on it.

so, indeed:     Happy Indigenous Land! — Every Holy Day

just missed this one, but there will be more

From the UnifyToronto email Call for Participants – for a Monthly Event Series scarily but appropriately titled “Indigenize or Die”:

I.O.D #7

DEEPENING OUR EXPERIENCE:
REINFORCING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LAND
 AND PEOPLE

 Last month we had the pleasure and honour of being welcomed by Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG), Helpers of the Earth, as our co-hosts, to A Celebration of Seeds Planted. Together we honoured and celebrated the efforts of NKG and many others at Emmett Avenue Communal Garden* who are doing the very important re-indigenizing work of reclaiming our food sovereignty.

For those who weren’t there, we had a marvelous tour of some of the re-indigenized orphan lands, with the plant medicines and food plants arranged according to the teachings of the elders. We learned how families from the Indigenous community are adopting lands and working in relationship to maintain their adopted area for the generations to come. We also learned about the sophisticated technology traditional of the mounds for the three sisters companion planting that predate permaculture by thousands of years.

We also shared some delicious food provided by the participants, and we danced, sang and told stories around the fire. Special thanks to Kevin and Doug who organized, to the Indigenous community members who tended the lands, and to Moyo and his son for the beautiful African music.

This month, we will continue the experiential path we have embarked upon. On July 27th we will have the opportunity to work alongside the NKG group to experience and learn together in our evolving connection with all creation. We’ll have a chance to get to know each other and the place, tell a few jokes, listen to the land, make ourselves useful.

There’s lots to see and learn together.

Come out and help when you can get there (we’ll start about 4, but even if you come at 6 that will help) until 7 or 7:30, then we’ll share a meal.

Wear long pants and shoes with socks, as there’s some poison ivy and worse…  

  • Wednesday July 27, 101 Emmet Ave (directions below)
  • 4-7 pm: digging, conversing, planting, joking, listening, getting to know each other.
  • 7:30-9:30 pm: Potluck Picnic and Circle
  • $15 suggested donation to cover travel and other expenses of our guest hosts.
  • Students/unwaged PWYC. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Please bring:

  • your own plate, cup and utensils
  • a potluck picnic dish to share
  • lawn chair and/or blanket if possible

How to get there:
The event will take place at 101 Emmett Avenue (near Jane and Eglinton), accessible by TTC via buses from Jane Station or York University (35 or 195 express) to Jane and Eglinton + 8 min walk, or Eglinton West Station (32 D takes you right to the site). Check the TTC Trip Planner for bus times and routes and Google Maps for more directions.

By car: Emmett Avenue runs North off of Eglinton, West of Jane. There’s a big sign at Eglinton and Emmett saying West Park Health Centre. Turn N on Emmett and go down the hill. Stop at the first parking lot on your left, There is a children’s playground across the street on the right. The communal garden is behind a fence just South of the playground, and North of the public washrooms. We are gathered in front of it by some picnic tables.
Note that the parking lot closes at 9 pm.

*The Emmett Avenue Communal Garden is a cooperative venture involving NKG, the Black Farmers Collective, the Afrocentric School collective, Social Planning Toronto, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, and communal garden volunteers. Grown communally rather than in individual plots, the garden is used for sustainable food production and distributed to low income families as a contribution to food justice. NKG have been reclaiming the area in an around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, including in this Garden, restoring indigenous responsibilities to the land and water, and supporting indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city. They are growing Three Sisters mounds (corn, beans and squash), a sophisticated and sustainable system that will provide long-term fertility and a healthy diet, in a generational project that will see families taking up responsibility for the mounds for Seven Generations.

“Indigenize or Die” is honoured and excited to be building a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoging.
For information on previous sessions in the series, see www.unifytoronto.ca/events.

The NKG self-identify as a group that “focuses on the popular restorative use of urban lands based on indigenous principles, knowledge and practices”. From their ABOUT page:

All our activities are mutually supportive.  Everything we do is connected.

  • Eco-Restoration
    • We return disturbed lands and waters in Toronto to a healthy balance, in ways that restore, maintain, protect and develop historical indigenous ecosystems for future generations.
  • Plant Nurseries
    • Our nursery sites include outdoor church gardens and greenhouse spaces, serving as places to learn and grow new plants.
  • Indigenous Cultural Regeneration
    • Our activities support urban indigenous people to learn and practice our cultural traditions, as the basis for reconnecting with our communities and the natural world around us.
  • Learning Opportunities
    • We provide places to teach indigenous values and ways of life and link with certification for our stewards through accredited learning agencies wherever possible.
  • Educational Ecotourism
    • We engage with diverse local communities, tourists and other visitors.  We welcome our friends in the surrounding community to the land.
  • Landscapes for All our Relations
    • We grow edible and medicinal landscapes for the next seven generations of humans, and for all life.

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