How science and First Nations oral tradition are converging
The long history of First Nations people isn’t one that can be found in books. Instead, it is a rich documentation detailed throughout time — a collective enterprise carried on by tradition and culture.
Oral tradition has often been discounted as just stories — but science is proving that the facts behind those stories certainly shouldn’t be discounted.
Room for improvement
While the convergence of science and oral history is important, Kimberley TallBear, associate professor at the University of Alberta’s Native Studies, says that it’s important that such investigations be a collaborative effort. She’s concerned that Western culture has always dominated that of First Nations and that it could do so again.
“I think it’s good, and I think it’s progress,” TallBear said. “But Western knowledge … [is] privileged over Indigenous knowledge.”
What’s needed, TallBear said, is more Indigenous people working as scientists.
“Most scientists are taught that those who are best suited to ask scientific questions are those who are least invested,” TallBear said. “But nobody is least invested. Nobody is asking those questions in a cultural vacuum.”
Petzelt said that it’s good to have the history of the First Nations people shared widely and she hopes to see it continue.
“It’s nice to have it explained in a way Western culture can understand,” said Petzelt.
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