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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.



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.

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2006) (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. 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.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015b) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC.

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



[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.


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”.


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.

PPt-as-PDF file

On the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary an equitable relationship between First Peoples and “settlers”/“newcomers” is still out of reach (cf. findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2015, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, twenty years apart). Extending law professor Kathleen Mahoney’s “Canada’s origin story” SSHRCC keynote (November 2015), I propose to postpone the “Canada 150” graduation until we’ve taken a make-up “Canada 101” course, addressing whose-ecological-knowledge-counts as a top-priority topic.

I submit that, in conceptualizing the future of this country alternatively to its ongoing, if chronically unacknowledged, colonialism, practice-justified Indigenous knowledges – at their philosophical core – are well worth employing on a par with re-examined(!) European-descended knowledges. Drawing on the work of Indigenous scholars Winona Laduke (1999), Deborah McGregor (2005, 2008), Richard Atleo (2011 & elsewhere), a.o., I compare (non-)Indigenous environmental philosophies in search of coalitional yet diversified, non-colonial thinking and action. “Traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK), a notion introduced by the mainstream for the Indigenous eco-epistemological orientation, but predictably eschued by Indigenous scholars (discussed in McGregor, 2005), is given a two-way upgrade, allowing Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledges to cross-pollinate or specialize, depending on the case, in informing environmental policy-making.

The study explores the correspondences between epistemological issues of paradigm (in)commensurability (per Kuhn’s “scientific revolution” model) and actual lived experiences of environmental injustices, notably in Canada’s “fourth world” and the global “third world” (see Shiva 1989/2010, a.o.), largely perpetrated by Canada et al.’s “first worlds”. Given the increasingly visible global-scale ecological crisis, which has come to be recognized as related to the industrialized-technologized lifestyle of the (ironically) “developed” world, attention is directed to lessons to be gained from the historically proven sustainable practices of “pre-contact” societies, and their persisting present-day descendants. I, moreover, insist on also looking at Europe’s own pre-Industrial ways of life and underlying worldviews (see, e.g., Lorimer’s 1998 edited volume), from which Western modernity, and even more so current free market economy, have drastically, and ultimately (self-)destructively, departed.

This allows me to argue, on some level critically/pedagogically and on another post-dichotomously/coalitionally, that the notion of TEK is not precluded from reference to what Europe “knew” (no different than world-wide wisdom traditions) and chose to sidestep through its double-edged values of “progress”/“civilization”/“development”. Sampling 25 centuries, there is a record of reverence for nature and “paradigmatic rebellions” (Rorty, 1979) against its subjection in the thought of … Sophocles,… Hildegard von Bingen,… Goethe,… Hans Jonas…

The educational philosophy message is that an up-to-date “Canada 101” epistemology informing public/personal decisions would invite the traditional knowledges of a re-emerging Indigenous North America, while heeding the wake-up calls of contemporary science (Hansen 2009, Schneider 2009, Weaver 2009 on climate) and concurring theoretical stances, without ignoring nature-mindful European (and, likewise, world-wide) legacies. Rather than denying “[economic] growth” (Jackson, 2009), wellbeing (cf. Anishinaabe minobimaatisiiwin “right/good living”) would entail growing together in (ecological) wisdom as far as economy, technology, and overall way-of-life. By ecosystemic interconnectedness, the blueprint for an equitably knowledgeable Canada that is yet to be born calls forth a similarly upgraded Earth.

Keywords: philosophy; systems theory/social systems, cultural imperialism, post-colonialism, policy, ethics, environmental journalism


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.

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.

Carson, Rachel Silent Spring

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

Laduke, Winona (1999) All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: Southend Press.

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

McGregor, Deborah (2005) Traditional Ecological Knowledge: An Anishnabe Woman’s Perspective. Atlantis 29(2), Spring/Summer 2005, pp.103-109.

———- (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 XXVIII, 1(8):139-158.

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

Shiva, Vandana (1989/2010) Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. London: Zed. Republished in 2010 by

South End Press.

———- (1997) Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. Boston, MA: South End Press.

PPt-as-PDF file


“Truth” – judging by the presumed cognitive extremes of religious/spiritual and epistemological/scientific contexts (Rorty, 1979, 2005) – can be seen, across the board, as the goal of inquiry and the highest distinction awarded in/for understanding and knowing well. This is because truth (best knowledge) potentially serves (in Deweyan terms) the “betterment of life”, which is why human societies have had, in one form or another, a special place for education. When it comes to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools (TRC, 2015), extending the work of RCAP (1996) and mandated by the ensuing IRS Settlement Agreement (2006), we face the asymmetric truths of a colonial history and present, and the urgent-discomfiting imperative of making space for these in knowing about the past and for the future. I see this as a long-term (in)formal educating-for/by-doing enterprise, attuned to the TRC’s 94 calls-to-action.

TRC’s truths exceed the analytic philosophy mould, descended from the Kantian tradition of “philosophy as epistemology” (per Rorty’s, 1979 diagnosis), whereby mental representation and apodicticity reign supreme. Instead, in their robust social/power situatednesses and investments, said truths demand a composite epistemological-ethical examination, as proposed by Miranda Fricker (2007) for “epistemic injustice” in gendered legal contexts, and earlier pursued more comprehensively by Donna Haraway, Lorraine Code, among many other feminist/revisionist epistemologists. I direct my similarly multimodal discursive lens toward a shared (non)Indigenous future for Canada. My emphatically public-cum-academic educational philosophy project, informed by TRC’s 94 calls-to-action (op.cit.), openly engages the country’s foundational colonial dichotomy to map past-current-future cognitive relationships within and across(non-)Indigenous spaces, along socio-psychological, political-economic, etc. dimensions.

I will argue that there is no direct, neat and easy, causal link between truth andreconciliation. Truth-finding/telling will be politically, educatively, and profoundly humanly vacuous, unless it effectively informs the consistent, continual creation and exercise of upgraded social habits/action. I take up the symbolic revision of “Canada’s Origin Story”, per law professor Kathleen Mahoney’s SSHRCC keynote (November 27, 2015), as a shorthand for the actual re-constituting of Canada. Namely, accepting Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit, Metis) as “co-founding” nations to reinstate them on a par with the currently constitutionally recognized British and French European settlers (in truth, colonizers). This means being/becoming – today, just as in the fur trade that birthed Canada (Innis, 1962; Ray, 1975, 1990), or in the French and Indian Wars (Tehanetorens, 1999) – partners of co-equal epistemic/economic/political agency. Hence, truly confederate – peaceful – nations.

The above, I propose, necessitates a comprehensive, transformative (self)educational project throughout the school-society continuum. It is to re-tune the ways in which and the reasons for which (non)Indigenous actors generate and engage with socially situated, thus ethically charged knowledges about/by/for self and each other, which have been, far too long, conspicuously discrepant. By conducting a hybrid epistemological inquiry, I project the conditions for a likewise multidimensional Canadian past-to-future “truth” of mutual inclusivity. Hide-and-seek need no longer be a colonizer/colonized tactic to circumvent reciprocally problematic truths of the past 500 years. Instead, Canada re-constitutes itself, byand for, the ethical-epistemic-pedagogical truthfulness of strategic mutuality.


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

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (May 8, 2006)

Innis, Harold Adam (1962) The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Mahoney, Kathleen (2015) “Canada’s Origin Story”. SSHRCC keynote, Victoria, BC, November 27, 2015.

Ray, Arthur J. (1974) Indians in the Fur Trade. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

———- (1990) The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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

———- (2005) Anticlericalism and Atheism. In Richard Rorty & Gianni Vattimo,The Future of Religion, pp. 29-42. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

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

Tehanetorens [Ray Fadden] (1999) Wampum Belts of the Iroquois. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Publishing Company.

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.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015b) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC.


So, the keywords:

  • “replenish” — term sums up human-human relationship as per Jean Vanier’s book Becoming Human
  • “heartmindfully” — term translates citta = heart + mind + not forgetting the body
  • “to the 7th generation” — metaphorizes the long-term Indigenous responsibility for thought and action

Replenishing One Another

Heartmindfully, to the Seventh Generation

To explore the question of how cross-cultural knowledges can inform the directions and modes in which the human potential of individuals and their communities could unfold, the present paper samples paradigms within the Buddhist and Native North American traditions, and further expands the “difference” taxonomy with the philosophy behind Jean Vanier’s L’Arche network of homes for the disabled. The comparative exploration of such purposefully chosen disparate epistemic-experiential spaces shows that they in fact have in common relatedness to Self, Other, and broader ecosystems. What is more, their overlap matches aspects of Western paradigmatic rebellions such as feminism, ecological and systems thinking models, critical (race/equity) theorizations, a.o., and harkens to the pragmatism of Peirce, James, and Dewey.

The noted overlap is proposed as what can make a difference in education (institutional and life-long) by orienting it toward a world-wide consciousness shift for mutually beneficial thinking-feeling-acting. This is in tune with scholarly efforts that have yielded approaches/models such as Claudia Eppert’s (2010 & elsewhere) “intercultural healing ethic”, Daniel Vokey’s (2001) “moral discourse in a pluralistic world”, Scott Pratt’s (2002) “rethinking of the roots of American philosophy”, James Tully’s (2009, 2014) Indigenous-knowledges informed “public philosophy”, or Jean Vanier’s (1998/2008) tao of “becoming human”.

Starting with Buddhism, its multiple streams (the earlier Theravada Buddhism, the later Tibetan Buddhism, or Zen Buddhism), generated over a period of more than 2,500 years, has a relatively long tradition of exchanges with the West. As far as current insights about concrete applications in educational settings, a number of scholars have engaged key notions like “mindfulness” (in Pali: sati), “heartmind” (Pali and Sanskrit: citta), or the four “divine abodes” (brahmavihāras), commonly rendered as “compassion”, “equanimity”, “lovingkindness”, “sympathetic joy” (in Pali: karunā, upekkhā, mettā, muditā, respectively).

While mindfulness, with its relatively Buddhism-independent status in e.g. current neuropsychology and psychiatry, may not even qualify as cross-cultural translation (of sati) because it misses its content (see Don Nelson, 2010, for the “scientific approach” relying on brain state neurophysiological assessments in D.J. Siegel, 2007, a.o.), there are other notions which seem to exemplify that. A good illustration is the nondualistic “heartmind [and body]” (citta, as in bodhicitta), which, being a single word in Pali, lends an extra leverage to Claudia Eppert’s (2010) de-dichotomization project, and by extension to her argument for citta-informed “heartmind literacy” that, compared to the well exercised “emotional literacy”, is, one might say, a few steps ahead on the way to restoring humans to wholeness, and education to a matching mode.  In a similar vein, Mary Jo Hinsdale (2012) proposes an “ethic of love” to guide the interactions of a professor with her students (and vice versa, I’d add), whereby she replenishes Kelly Oliver’s “theory of witnessing” with the divine abodes, foregrounding “lovingkindness”. Just as Eppert, gaining conceptual-affective traction from Buddhism, argues for a revisioned “heartmind literacy” and also opens up the understanding (Nussbaum’s, a.o.) of the closely related notion of “compassion”, so does Hinsdale enrich Oliver’s argument, and her own, for a view of Self-formation that entails “mutual subjectivity” rather than being bound by the standard, descended from Hegel, of identity-building by way of “recognition” predicated on strife/confrontation.

In a cross-cultural dialogue, the Buddhism scholars discussed above are building bridges to ultural traditions from the “third world”, whether at its original geographical location, or transposed to any other point around the globe by migrants. By giving dignity to culturally distinct knowledges, and thereby to the Others that embody them and to the embedding cultures, the authors can be thought of as contributing substantially to Eppert’s “intercultural healing ethic” project.

Similarly valuated flows can be tracked in Scott Pratt’s argument for a pre-contact “Native pragmatism”, which foreshadowed the classical pragmatism of Peirce, James, and Dewey. He conceptualizes four foundational principles that drive it, namely, interaction, pluralism, community, and growth. By closely following the historical record of exchanges between Indigenous peoples of the American North-East and European settlers, he projects a connection, however indirect, to the founders of American pragmatism, in whose later philosophies he sees the four principles resurfacing. Thus, in a radical move, he puts Indigenous knowledges and their embodying humans, not just on a par with (post-)settler America. In effect, he aligns them with the original colonizer, Europe, whose cultural elites treated the New World as an intellectual clone at best, and first peoples as epistemologically (and even bodily) invisible, only giving grudging (if any) recognition to pragmatism as the first properly American philosophical approach. Taking a look at the West Coast, Richard Atleo, among a growing number of Indigenous scholars, has shown that the Nuu-chah-nulth worldview of tsawalk, or “ontological unity” (a.k.a. interconnectedness), can go far in suggesting an ecologically oriented way of being in the world, informing public activism and state policy (cf. Tully’s public philosophy). As is well known, a number of Indigenous nations pledge responsibility for the world, as the idiom goes, “to the seventh generation”.

Switching situatednesses from the ethnic-political to the embodied, through his work with L’Arche homes for the disabled, Jean Vanier develops a philosophy that is very much in line with the deeper relatedness message of the previous theorizations. “Becoming human” shapes up as the process that teaches one to love difference and its presumed uncanniness/inferiority as well as, and, conversely, to believe in oneself and in the possibility and reality of being loved despite one’s difference.  Far from surprisingly, Vanier shares that the able-bodied and privileged can learn how to give love to the least attractive, in what can aptly be described as the “to and fro” of relationship that is mutually replenishing.

To conclude, in establishing a common denominator the juxtaposition of concordant “old” and “(re)new(ed)” knowledges of relatedness to Self, Other, and the rest of (a)biotic Nature may be downplayed as a cliché (cf. the so-called Golden Rule of loving one’s neighbour that is cross-culturally pervasive). However, I propose to treat the established convergence as an affirmation of a “real would-be” (in Peircean terms) and an opportunity for a turning point in human history. By this token it becomes a promising, edifying (in Rorty’s 1979 terms), formal and public education agenda for the directions and modes in which to think, feel, intuit, act,… and ultimately live-with, and live on.



Atleo, E. Richard a.k.a. Umeek (2004) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

———- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to World Crisis. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

Eppert, Claudia (2010) “Heartmind Literacy: Compassionate Imaging and the Four Brahmavihäras”, Paideusis 19, no 1 (2010), pp. 17-28.

Eppert, Claudia and Hongyu Wang, eds. (2008) Cross-cultural Studies in Curriculum: Eastern Thought, Educational Insights. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum/Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Hinsdale, Mary Jo (2012) “Choosing to Love”, Paideusis 20, no 2 (2012), pp.  36-45.

Nelson, Donald (2010) “Implementing Mindfulness: Practice as the Home of Understanding”. Paideusis 19, no 1 (2010), pp.  4-14.

Nhat Hanh, Titch (1998) Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism. Berkeley: Parallax Press.

Oliver, Kelly (2001) Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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

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

Tully, James (2009) Public Philosophy in a New Key. Volume I: Democracy and Civic Freedom, Volume I I: Imperialism and Civic Freedom. Cambridge University Press.

———- (2014) On global citizenship: James Tully in dialogue. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Vanier, Jean (1998/2008) Becoming Human. CBC Massey Lectures Series. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.

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

Q: By “education” (hence “curriculum”) do I really mean “schooling”?

A: Noooo. Learning since the first breath we take and for as long as we live 🙂

Glocal Internationalization of

Foundations of Education (across) Curricula

Today’s likely most robust and wide-ranging geopolitical dichotomy stems from the sixteenth century imperial enterprise of “discovering”, “settling” and exploiting new territories outside of the “Old World”. Canada, like the United States, Australia, or New Zealand, is a “post-settler” society (see, e.g., anthropologist Sissons, 2005), whose geography is shared by a European-descended dominant lifeworld and an Indigenous one, with an added overlay of lifeworlds of migrants and recent immigrants. To say that education is an indispensable participant in the consciousness shift which the state of planetary, and domestic, affairs calls for is to say that curriculum design – coding a worldview, hence educational foundations – would have a share in, and bear responsibility for, mediating the required dialogue and knowledge exchange between cultures.

Tasked in this way, Canadian curricula would be reflecting, and sustaining, relations between (First, and subsequent) local as well as global “nations”, and would thus be inter-national in a “glocal” sense (see term in e.g. Tully, 2014). If they are aimed at transcending the resilient colonial and nonsustainably technoscientific slant of the mainstream imaginary, a point which has been variously supported, for example, by contributions in Ng-A-Fook and Rottmann’s (2012) edited volume, they would be better suited to prepare domestic and foreign students, at any stage of the educational system, for 21st century glocal citizenship.

The shift from colonial-industrial to ecological-relational foundations would need to incorporate knowledges from First Nations domestically and recognize worldviews from any point in the world, a wide variety of which embodied and enacted by local diasporic populations. Educational foundations – at any level of education – can thus be enriched by notions like the Nuu-chah-nulth tsawalk “one”, implying ontological unity/interconnectedness (Atleo, 2004, 2011) or the Blackfoot aoksisowaato’op, expressing relational renewal by revisiting a place (Blood et al., 2012). These had been effective guidelines for regenerating Indigenous societies for thousands of years prior to contact.

A number of scholars have argued for “dropping the quotation marks” around “Native philosophy” or “Native science” (Cajete, 2000; Peat, 2002; Pratt, 2001), restoring dignity to Indigenous knowledges. Valuable experiments have been carried out toward adopting Indigenous knowledges into the K12 system (Blenkinsop et al., 2012), and successes have been recorded in implementing Indigenous-style learning for Indigenous students (see Donald, Glanfield and Sterenberg’s, 2011 work with the Eagle Flight First Nation). Importantly, recognition of non-Western philosophies has gone hand in hand with voicing hitherto silenced histories (Blood et al., 2012; Donald, 2004), and notice has been taken of possible misrepresentations or misappropriations. The benefits and dangers of cross-cultural translations have been noted for educational implementations of Buddhist “mindfulness” (Nelson, 2010) and the four “divine abodes” (Eppert, 2010), which are also in line with the projected socio-ecological consciousness shift.

Because of Canada’s ethnocultural tapestry, just as its populations are impacted by/reflective of tensions/crises around the world, so could local advances toward peaceful and environmentally minded intercultural collaboration (and decolonialization) indicate ways of achieving reciprocity globally. This, given the public role assigned to education, makes curriculum design more daunting, and, potentially, more rewarding.


Atleo, E. Richard a.k.a. Umeek (2004) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

———- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to World Crisis. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

Blenkinsop, Sean, Michael Caulkins, Michael Derby, Mark Fettes, Lara Harvester, Veronica Hotton, Jodi MacQuarrie, Laura Piersol, and John Telford (2012). Maple Ridge Environmental School Project – Interim Report. Eco-Learning Research Group, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University

Blood, Narcisse, Cynthia Chambers, Dwayne Donald, Erika Hasebe-Ludt, and Ramona Big Head (2012) Aoksisowaato’op: Place and Story as Organic Curriculum. In Ng-A-Fook and Rottmann (2012), pp. 47-82.

Cajete, Gregory (2000). Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. With a foreword by Leroy Little Bear, J.D. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.

Donald, Dwayne Trevor (2004) Edmonton Pentimento: Re-Reading History in the Case of the Papaschase Cree. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies 2(1) (Spring 2004), pp. 21-53.

Donald, Dwayne, Florence Glanfield and Gladys Sterenberg (2011). Culturally Relational Education In and With an Indigenous Community. [Indigenous Education] in Education 17(3), Autumn 2011, pp. 72-83.

Eppert, Claudia (2010) “Heartmind Literacy: Compassionate Imaging and the Four Brahmavihäras”. Paideusis 19(1), 2010, pp. 17-28.

Nelson, Donald (2010) “Implementing Mindfulness: Practice as the Home of Understanding”. Paideusis 19(1), 2010, pp. 4-14.

Ng-A-Fook, Nicholas and Jennifer Rottmann (2012). Reconsidering Canadian Curriculum Studies. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Nhat Hanh, Titch (1998) Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism. Berkeley: Parallax Press.

Peat, F. David (2002). Blackfoot Physics. Boston, MA: Weiser Books.

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

Sissons, Jeffrey (2005). First Peoples: Indigenous Cultures and Their Futures. London, UK: Reaktion Books.

Tully, James (2014). On Global Citizenship: James Tully in Dialogue. London – New Delhi – New York – Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic.

Missed only most of day 1 upon return from Europe. This is how tiny and manageable my flight back looked on the monitor on the plane, but felt veeeery different, as always since the accident all those years ago.
Over the remaining 3 days, took tons of notes. November 7-10 was my 7th conference for 2011, and the first one ever to attend w/o a presentation of my own. Big difference in pure-delight levels 🙂 !!!

Logically, chose to take photos of the panel on education, convened by Alex Kuskis, with the participation of Kathy Hutchon Kawasaki, Eric McLuhan, Bob Logan, and Norm Friesen. FYI, Kathy and Eric co-authored with Marshall McLuhan a book, City as classroom: Understanding language and media, collecting in it experiences from their respective teaching practice, K12 in the former case, college [in the Canadian sense] in the latter.

Panel, left to right: Alex Kuskis, moderator, Norm Friesen, Kathy Kawasaki, Eric McLuhan, and speaking Bob Logan.

A view of the main conference hall:

BONUS links

An interview with Bob Logan on the MLN blog, Dec. 15, 2011: “Bob Logan Reminisces on Marshall McLuhan: Who Invented the Alphabet?”

Bob’s collection of McLuhan’s prophetic quotes re the future we are all living now: July 2011 presentation at OCAD University, during McLuhan Centenary conference.

From Clean Air Alliance’s email list:

    Aug. 13 – 15, at Hart House, U of T. Three days of climate science and solutions — no sugar coating. With Bill McKibben, Andrew Weaver, Elizabeth May and more. Presented by U of T Greens and Toronto-Danforth Federal Green Party. It is a non-partisan event open to everyone. For more info and to register:

Re several among the 35 presenters announced:

The three keynote speakers mentioned above have been featured on ES’s “Researched CC-related Material” list, Print and Public Debates sections. They are people with a long track record in the CC discourse – Elizabeth May is the leader of the Canadian Greeen Party, lawyer by training. Andrew Weaver holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modeling and Analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, where he is a professor, and was also lead author in the IPCC-4 Report, Working Group I (scientists). Bill McKibben is likely the first author of a CC-related book targeting a larger audience – The End of Nature, 1990.

Another presenter featured on the ES blog is Jim Prall, who works for U of T’s Electrical & Computer Engineering department. He is the author of a database on climate scientists (see Websites section on the list above)

The youngest presenters–who caught my attention–have certainly earned a min of your time:

Gracen Johnson, an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, Ontario, is majoring in International Development with an emphasis on the biophysical environmental, economics, and agriculture, and has extensive experience in social and environmental advocacy and event planning.

Corina Serda started to learn about the global impacts of climate change at age 10 and is currently in the top 10 presenters trained by Al Gore. (note to self: research this public edu venue, esp. as conducted for/by Canadians). Implementing the rhetorics of her training, I’d imagine, a quote from her profile: “If each of [the 25,000 people she is reported to have reached were to]  implement only 1 of her suggestions and inspire 2 others to do the same, more than 75,000 green acts would have been achieved across Ontario”.

Kimia Ghomeshi has built quite a record of activism, starting in high school, subsequently continuing with international participation, including Bolivia, COP15 in Copenhagen… Please see for yourselves! She’s currently based in Toronto.

Andrew Knox is a PhD candidate in the University of Toronto’s Chemical Environmental Engineering program, focusing on domestic energy efficiency and renewable energy in the building sector. He is a member of Transition Canada and a founding member of Transition Toronto, and is working with other cities to adapt the Transition model to the megacity scale, with which he is also familiar from the UK.

A photo and a name for Dan Dolderman,… but we needn’t stop here, as far as Young Spirit is concerned, right? 🙂

  • post start: April 2010 – keeping the few lines, for the affective record
  • continuing: June 22-24, 2010

April Title: Hanging On to CBC Radio’s Every unWord – The Dec’09 Copenhagen [***]

You fill in the blank, if you are so inclined, just please resist the temptation, despite Oscar Wilde’s all-too-true adage, to be completely sincere in the Comment section – after all, we’ve all had, what, a full semester (?) – to “cool it”. Courtesy appreciated. Fully. L:)

Just the other day, browsing book displays downtown (specifically, sales), I spotted Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. Must have been in junior high when I first read it. Just as I had pretty much convinced myself NOT to buy it and add to tons of paper I already suffer tremendously over not being able to get rid of, the “Preface to the New Edition” popped at me. What did I see? – the author had been quite ill while finishing the book, and as a matter of fact, his responsibility to his loyal readers had kept him going AND pretty much breathing. That didn’t give me much of a choice, did it?

Back to Dec 2009 – COP15 in Europe, myself prone in bed for most of the month, crawling-hobbling between radio and desktop PC. Since I am off TV and video, access to more traditional media boiled down to CBC Radio 1 (yuk!, some might say – go ahead, I can take it 🙂 ). To make things even more pen-worthy, the bedridden-hood’s onslaught occured against the backdrop of a trying 2-3 months on the local academic scene, what with restructuring and the like…, which you’ll be spared.

And since like many others who subscribe to the belief that it’s not so much what is happening to you as what you are happening to it that counts, I focussed on turning my captive audience status into a venue for research.

The outcome was the paper I gave at a friendly conference in Ottawa in March 2010, currently in prep for publication.

Recruiting Mr Collins’s eloquence,

…I had my duty to the public still to bear in mind… I held on to the story – for my own sake as well as for [the readers’]… The art which had always been the pride and the pleasure of my life, became now more than ever ‘its own exceeding great reward’.
=> Read: art = research | public, readers – leave as is

To help you get the gist, the talk title is “CBC Radio’s “Mash-down” of Glocal Spaces at the Copenhagen’09 UN Summit: Discourse Fragmentation and Epistemological Gapping”. The references are part Climate Bib and part General Bib on the ES site.

The handout to your attn, mhtml file, at 61KB – for now. Works 4me in IE.



  • CBC Radio’s “Mash-down” of Glocal Spaces at the Copenhagen’09 UN Summit: Discourse Fragmentation and Epistemological Gapping. Paper read at the 5th Annual Carleton Conference “Global Mash-ups: Re-envisioning Space in Communication Studies”, March 4 & 5, 2010, Ottawa, Canada.

The abstract, for now:

From a philosophical perspective, the focus of the research presented is on the professor-graduate student relationship, seen as being at the very core of graduate education (see Dewey’s teacher-as-mentor). Unless the mentorship relation can ensure that what a more experienced academic has learned (emphatically including their “tacit” knowledge) is passed on to the student, an extremely wasteful epistemological disconnect is guaranteed. Unless master’s and doctoral programs ensure proper valuation of the professor’s highly demanding role, one would be forced to acknowledge an axiological paradox, which is both systemic and structural.

It is argued that while at the graduate level Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development may be (getting) slimmer, its size is (progressively) in reverse proportion to the intensity of effort required on the part of both faculty and students. More than at any other level of education quality suffers tremendously if a professor is discouraged, and really prevented (due to time constraints and competing priorities), from properly transferring to the student their experience as researcher, author and teacher.

It is therefore argued that 1) faculty should be given proper credit for a more adequate amount of consultation time for students and supervision of guided research courses, which not only allow but require low enrolment numbers, and 2) the curriculum (especially at the Doctoral stage) should open up spaces for preparation for peer-reviewed conference presentations and publications.

University of Toronto examples are given of tutoring/guidelines for conference presentations (computer science), professor-student co-authorship of presentations and publications (sciences and humanities), graduate student electronic journals of various formats. The proposed preventive measures for epistemological disconnect and axiological paradox in graduate education are presented in the way of an antidote for the dichotomization of traditional academic values and administrative viability, that the industrialization of higher education threatens.

in preparation for publication:

  • Turning the Tables on Epistemological Disconnect and Axiological Paradox: A Mindmap for Graduate Education Programs. Poster at the Annual CSSHE Conference, Congress’10, Montreal, Quebec, May 29-31, 2010.


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