Land and Knowledge

Manulani Meyer describes the land as “an epistemological cornerstone . . .” and “‘. . . more than a physical place. It is an idea that engages knowledge and contextualizes knowing‘ (Meyer 2008:216)” (Hopson and Cram 2018:7-8)

“. . . Knowing ‘literally comes from the ground, above, and beyond, from the wisdoms of continuous metaphysical engagements and familiarity with ‘all our relations‘” (Ahenakew et al 2014, p. 222, cited in Ahenakew 2016).

“Drawing on Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee history and philosophy, and the relatedness of land and flesh, Vanessa Watts articulates a concept of Indigenous Place-Thought. She describes Place-Thought as ‘the non-distinctive space where place and thought were never separated because they never could or can be separated. Place-Thought is based upon the premise that land is alive and thinking, and that humans and non-humans derive agency through the extensions of these thoughts’ (2013: 21). . . [This] necessarily disrupts a concept of knowledge separate from the geosphere and biosphere, and posits instead that land and thought are integral to one another. Biota, geology and thinking are one and the same” (Davis & Todd 2017:769).

Because Knowledge arises from specific Place, it is deeply contextual rather than universal, local to a specific place and the web of relationships in that place and with that person or people. The purpose of such Knowledge is to reinforce and maintain the health of those relationships (Shawn Wilson, cited in Adams et al 2015:17).

More than twenty years ago, Lakota scholar Vine Deloria pointed out that Western culture long ago restricted its own understanding of the natural world “to a wholly mechanical process” by reducing “all human experience to a cause-and-effect situation” (Deloria 1999:225). Both Indigenous worldview and complexity theory, on the other hand, focus on relationships rather than mechanistic cause-and-effect as the key functional processes of the natural world (Deloria 1999, Wilson 2009, Keller 2005).

“And how can we experience this Indigenous ontology of inter-being-relationality if we have been colonized by the ways of knowing that numb our sense to it?” (Ahenakew 2018:3)

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