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Indigenous and Western Science

NEW: Discussion Paper by Dan Moonhawk Alford

Is there an Indigenous science?

To what extent is Western science limited by language?

How will Indigenous and peasant societies survive the continued impact of globalization and Western economic systems?

Is it possible for Western and Indigenous people to dialogue together in truly meaningful ways?

What can Western science learn from the knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples?

To what extent does Western science, technology and economics harm the planet and its peoples?

How can Indigenous peoples revive and reclaim their lost knowledge?

How can these same people incorporate elements of Western science without dislocating their own traditions?

Questions like these surface whenever "Western scientists" and Indigenous peoples talk together. Because of the vast gaps that separate their world-views, as well as a long history of colonization and cultural suppression, such encounters are never easy. Yet, if one is willing to persist the rewards can be considerable. Probably a "Western scientist" can never fully enter into an Indigenous world-view, but at least the glimpses obtained can point back to limitations in their own knowledge systems. Likewise, if Indigenous people are to survive they must come to terms with elements of Western science and technology.

My own encounters with Indigenous peoples and their world-views began in the early 1990s. Later, thanks to the sponsorship of The Fetzer Institute, I was able to organize, along with Leroy Little Bear, a series of dialogue circles for Western Scientists and Native American Elders. My later move from Canada to a medieval village in Italy was motivated, in part, by the desire to understand European society before the Renaissance and advent of science, technology and industrialization.

Recently I experienced the curious synchronicity whereby a number of Indigenous people contacted me and wished to continue this debate. It seemed appropriate that we dialogue together and invite others to join in our discussions.

The first of their letters can be read on the next page. You are all invited to respond.

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