Canada resembling New Zealand in equating science with indigenous “ways of knowing”

March 29, 2023 • 10:15 am

New Zealand is a lost cause insofar as science education is concerned, for the government and educational establishment is doing all it can to make local indigenous “ways of knowing” (mātauranga Māori, or MM) coequal with modern science, and taught as coequal. This will, in the end, severely damage science education in New Zealand, and drive local science teachers (and graduate students) to other countries. It won’t help the indigenous Māori people, either, as it will not only give them misconceptions about what is empirically “true” versus what is fable, legend, or religion, but also make them less competitive in world science—both in jobs and publishing.

Now, I would be the first to admit that indigenous knowledge is not completely devoid of empirical knowledge.  Indigenous people have a stock of knowledge acquired by observation as well as trial and error. This includes, of course, a knowledge of the indigenous plants and their medical and nutritional uses, when the best time is to catch fish or pick berries, and, in perhaps its most sophisticated version, the ability the Polynesians to navigate huge expanses of water. (That, of course, was also done by trial and error, and must have involved the demise of those who didn’t do it right—something that’s never mentioned.)

Is observational knowledge like this “science”?  In one sense, yes, for you can construe “science” as simply “verified empirical knowledge”.  But modern science is more than that: it’s also its own “way of knowing”—a toolkit of methods, itself assembled by trial and error, for obtaining provisional truth. This toolkit, as I explain in Faith Versus Fact, includes the practices of modern science, including hypothesis-making and -testing, experiments, replication, pervasive doubt and criticality, construction models, concepts of falsifiability, and so on.

Because modern science comprises not just facts but a method codified via experience, indigenous knowledge generally fails the second part, for it lacks a method for advancing knowledge beyond experience and verification. Indeed, I know of no indigenous science that has a standard methodology for ascertaining truth. Yes, various plants can be tested for their efficacy in relieving ailments, but this is done by trial and error—in contrast to the double-blind tests used to assess the effects of new drugs and medicines.

Still, indigenous knowledge can contribute to modern science. This can involve bringing attention to phenomena that, when tested scientifically, can be folded into the domain of empirical fact.  Quinine and aspirin were developed in this way. And, of course, local ecological knowledge of indigenous people can be valuable in helping guide modern science and calling attention to phenomena that might have otherwise been overlooked. Nevertheless, what we have is experiential knowledge on one hand—a species of knowledge that rarely leads to testable hypotheses—and modern science on the other, which is designed to lead to progress by raising new testable hypotheses.

The concept of “indigenous science”, then, baffles me, especially if, as in New Zealand, it’s seen as coequal to science. It’s not, though, for it lacks a methodology beyond trial and error for determining what’s true. But because of what philosopher Molly McGrath called “the authority of the sacred victim.”, indigenous “ways of knowing” are given special authority because they’re held by people regarded as oppressed. This leads their “ways of knowing” to be overrated as competitors to modern science. Indeed, MM is a pastiche of real empirical knowledge, but also of religion, theology, ideology, morality, rules for living, authority, and tradition. This kind of mixture characterizes many indigenous “ways of knowing”, making it necessary, when teaching them as science, to not only distinguish “fact” from “method,” but to winnow the empirical wheat from the ideological and spiritual chaff.

As I said, it’s too late for those in New Zealand, with real science being diluted by MM, but only now am I realizing that Canada, which of course harbors indigenous people with substantial power, is starting a movement to teach “indigenous science”, too. And the way it’s going it doesn’t bode well. For example, here’s a job ad for a high-paying “Director of Indigenous Science” on a Canadian government website (click screenshot to see the whole thing):

The position is, first, to “bridge” Indigenous and Western science (of course although modern science started flowering in sixteenth-century Europe, it is no longer “Western” and should not be called as such, which insults all the working scientists not in the West):

The Indigenous Science Division is seeking a Director who will bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western sciences! Do you want to participate in establishing partnerships with Indigenous knowledge holders? Do you possess strong communication skills and have a desire to engage with this community?

But the implicit assumption is that there is indeed indigenous science comparable to modern science. How can they be bridged? By supplementing modern science with things like medicinal plants that haven’t been tested using a proper method? Or by bringing the methods of modern science into indigenous science, which I don’t think is the goal here/ Indeed, the position assumes there already is an indigenous “science” that seems to go beyond experiential knowledge. Here are some of the criteria you must meet to be considered for the job:

– Experience working with Indigenous knowledge systems or science.

– Experience developing and implementing policies and programs related to Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge, or science programs.

– Experience in building and maintaining relationships with Indigenous communities, organizations, or multiple stakeholders, including different levels of government.

– Experience providing leadership and guidance to staff in incorporating Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge or science into their work.

And what you must know:

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science, including traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous research methods and methodologies, and perspectives on environment and natural sciences.

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science frameworks, such as Two-Eyed Seeing, which integrate Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.

Yes, of course traditional ecological knowledge, if it’s established as true, would count, but I’m curious about what constitutes “indigenous research methods and methodologies.” If they do exist, I’d be pleased to learn about them.

But the stuff about “Two-Eyed Seeing” is misleading, for, if you read the article in the British Columbia Medical Journal below, you find that seeing nature through a modern science lens (one eye) as well as an indigenous science lens (the other eye), you are basically valorizing the oppressed rather than invigorating science. Click to read:

The definition of “Two-eyed seeing” from the paper’s background material:

Two-Eyed Seeing developed from the teachings of Chief Charles Labrador of Acadia First Nation, but Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall of the Eskasoni First Nation was the first to apply the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing in a Western setting. Specifically, Two-Eyed Seeing “refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.”

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t show what the “indigenous eye” can contribute to vision, for the piece is mostly about gaining the trust of indigenous communities if they are to be involved in your research. And that’s necessary, of course: you just don’t go barging into an indigenous community to use them as research subjects or helpers without their complete cooperation, including discussion of how they’d benefit from the research and exactly what is being studied. But the article is NOT about empirical truths gained from indigenous “ways of knowing.”

Finally, if you were thinking that you can’t “decolonize” mathematics, you’re wrong. Here’s a link to a “professional learning session” sent me by a Canadian teacher who saw it and was upset by it. (By the way, I get quite a few emails from Canadian educators who are upset by the “decolonization” of scientific/medical knowledge via “indigenous knowledge”, but, like people in New Zealand, they dare not object for fear of professional damage.)

The session is on April 29, and you can register to see it online by clicking on the article—at least I think you can. You might have to be a Canadian teacher.

Click to read:

What’s on tap in this session (my bolding):

In this session Dr. [Lisa] Borden will share stories from her research and teaching life that have been influenced by the knowledge learned from time spent alongside Elders and knowledge keepers within the Mi’kmaw community in Mi’kma’ki or what we now call Nova Scotia. Through a series of moments, she will share how her philosophy for decolonizing mathematics education has been shaped and how this in turn shapes her mathematics teaching. Key ideas that will be shared include ideas about ethnomathematics, the role of community-based inquiry and social justice, the importance of a culturally enabling pedagogy informed by language, and the importance of a holistic approach to advancing students’ mathematical understandings.

Lisa Lunney Borden is a Professor in the faculty of education who holds the John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Mathematics Education striving to improve outcomes in mathematics for Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth. Prior to coming to StFX, she had a teaching career in We’koqma’q First Nation where she spent ten years as a secondary mathematics teacher, a vice-principal and principal, as well as the provincial mathematics leader for all Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey schools in Nova Scotia. Lisa credits her students and the Mi’kmaw community for inspiring her to think differently about mathematics education which continues to shape her work today. She is committed to research and outreach that focuses on decolonizing mathematics education through culturally based practices and experiences that are rooted in Indigenous languages and knowledge systems. She is a sought-after speaker nationally and internationally and has a passion for working with teachers and their students. Lisa has helped to create the Show Me Your Math program that inspired thousands of Mi’kmaw youth to share the mathematical reasoning inherent in their own community contexts, and an outreach program called Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities that brings similar ideas to Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth as an afterschool program. She currently serves as the President of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group, and sits on the Canadian Mathematical Society’s reconciliation committee.

Now I’m not sure what’s included in “ethnomathematics”. If it’s just approaching teaching math but using examples familiar to indigenous folk, then it’s not an alternative form of mathematics but a method of teaching. If it really adds stuff to the knowledge of mathematics, I’d like to know what. (Be always wary when you see the term “holistic approach” applied to education. And the notion that ethnomathematics has something to do with “social justice” scares the bejeezus out of me.) Perhaps ethnomathematics is mathematics + ideology, in which case it’s not an eye that sees, but a hand that propagandizes.

h/t: Luana

55 thoughts on “Canada resembling New Zealand in equating science with indigenous “ways of knowing”

  1. Our idiot prime minister and his crony appointment of long-time Greenpeace activist are to blame. The circumstances are worse than you think.

    1. Generally I disagree that the prime minister is to blame as the problem, by far, predates the current government. I encountered the idea of “Indigenous” “ways of knowing” presented uncritically in school about 20 years ago.

      The prime minister is but a symptom of a larger cultural problem. The federal government ‘could’ help push back against this by removing the idiocy from grant proposals and NSERC funding but without direct control of the education pipeline there isn’t a huge amount he can do directly (even if he wasn’t playing the virtue game himself).

      It is a larger cultural problem where huge swaths of the population believe (or at least pay lip service to) an ideology that is really quite racist at its core but is dressed up in sufficiently progressive clothes as to fool the masses. This ideology arbitrarily separates people into groups and assigns to different groups different characteristics and capabilities when it comes to understanding the world. However it is never put so plainly and as such the racism is hidden away and given a veneer of respectability.

      1. I disagree. The PM is not a symptom; he is the root of this nonsense, which has been festering within virtually all federal departments under his watch. As mentioned below, I have never seen it as bad as it is now.

    2. I agree with Benjamim that the issue predates the current government, so whether one likes the Prime Minister or not, is beyond the point. Also, by “crony appointment of long-time Greenpeace activist” I assume you are referring to Steven Guilbeault, who is Minister of Environment and Climate Change. I don’t see how the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is to blame for any of this. If anyone in government would have anything to do with this I imagine it would be the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, or maybe one of the ministers who deal with indigenous issues.
      I work in Academia at a Canadian University and am also quite concerned with the issues raised by the post. I agree that better dialogue and cooperation with indigenous knowledge and perspectives is very important and should lead to very productive advancements in science. I think that including scientists of indigenous identity in Academia and the scientific process is not only fair but good, but am really concerned about calling, no doubt valuable, indigenous knowledge, science is a great disservice to both science and indigenous knowledge.
      Thanks for the post.

      1. … better dialogue and cooperation with indigenous knowledge and perspectives is very important and should lead to very productive advancements in science.

        Is that claim about specific fields of science, perhaps ecology, or is it in general? Personally, I don’t think that indigenous knowledge would contribute to materials science or cosmology or evolutionary biology or science in general, any more than Western indigenous myths would, since science has developed way beyond that.

        … I think that including scientists of indigenous identity in Academia and the scientific process is not only fair but good, …

        Yes, agreed, people from all backgrounds should be encouraged to contribute to science.

      2. My comments come from the current appeal of the recently enacted Impact Assessment Act. If you are following that dispute, I imagine you are aware that that legislation explicitly mandates that “indigenous knowledge” must be taken into account with respect to the approval of projects. Under that legislation, “indigenous knowledge” has no definition other than “the Indigenous knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada”. Furthermore, the process thereof is given high discretion and confidentiality.

        Effectively, should the federal government succeed in its appeal, any opposing indigenous group will be able to veto economic development that may* affect its land, no questions asked. This is a leap from the previous legal framework, which only required consultation at minimum.

        The IAA falls within the purview of the Minister of Environment and “Climate Change”.

        Why I mention the PM and the nodding company he keeps is because this type of blatant, self-flagellating genuflection has been steamrolling through our legislations and federal departments under his watch. It was never this audacious before.

        1. I think this is the case, James.

          One of the lawyers for the Indigenous grifters says:
          Ryan Beaton, a lawyer for the intervening First Nations Major Project Coalition, says there is “a third order of government in Canada’s constitutional landscape” and the case can be viewed as major one in determining how Indigenous jurisdiction fits with federal and provincial powers.

          This advocacy position is constitutionally false. Aboriginals, especially not an ad hoc conglomeration of bands happening to agree on something, constitute no third “higher authority” of government like an unelected Senate of arbitrary and shifting composition that nonetheless has legislative veto power. Nonetheless I am aware that at least since the days of (half- ) aboriginal Justice Minister and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould, the idea has been gaining traction in the federal civil service that there is some sort of indigenous secretariat that must vet and approve all legislation passed by Parliament before it becomes law. Very dangerous idea. She is promoting it in a new book reviewed here by Peter Best:

          When Trudeau fired her from Cabinet I would like to think it was over her promotion of this idea and not over her principled stand on another issue. But I think he nods along with it as long as China is happy..

          1. Yes. As a lawyer, I am profoundly disappointed at the current state of the law and the profession. The constitution is getting ripped apart by these Machiavellians in charge.

          2. Do you read Andrew Roman’s blog, Andrew’sViews? He has lengthy legal discussions on the No-More-Pipelines Act and on Canada’s “enshrinement” of UNDRIP.. I’m omitting the link because they seem to glitch the moderation process.

  2. Canada is atoning for its sins. We stole their country, and we’re not going to give it back, are we? We imprisoned and abused their children, in the name of civilization. I noted an interesting thing while I was strolling around the University of Toronto. The buildings have been named for prominent past leaders, but the name-tags of, say, the Kelly Library, are on banners hung from the face of the building, or on little painted signs stuck in the lawns outside, just in case we have to rename them.

    1. Not a Canadian, but I’m not sure how destroying Science helps anyone, let alone makes up for any past actions.

      1. Unfortunately no. Children were required to attend residential schools (not quote a prison I will admit) and there was systemic coverup of physical and sexual abuse at many of the schools. Two of the purposes of these schools was to teach them a Western religion and suppress their native language.

        1. School is not prison. Glad you agree, Mike, that it was a lie.

          I was required to attend school and be instructed in English. So were you. So are immigrant children today. If my parents had immigrated from a country where only Urdu is spoken and there is no written language, they would not have wanted me to learn only Urdu in school, just to keep alive the cultural tradition. The native bands wanted the government to build schools for them in the roadless wastes of the prairies, as per treaty obligation. Tell me what good is fluency in Oji-Cree, one of the more widely spoken indigenous languages, today, with a written form created only by missionaries.

          Only a third of aboriginal children ever attended a residential school. Many of the ones who were “compelled” to were placed there as a form of rescue from alcoholic abusive and neglectful parents. The prevalence of abuse is unknown because the compensation scheme awarded more money to former students who were willing to say they were abused. Because Catholics were involved in some of the schools, we are all quick to give these tales credence and some are undoubtedly true. I’m as suspicious of Catholic priests as the next guy. But I’m also suspicious of motivated unsworn uncross-examined testimonials at commissions where the commissioner encourages the audience to shout down anyone with an inconvenient story.

          You are writing as if you have no idea what native “civilization” was like in post-contact Canada and still is, if left to its own devices. Prime Minister Macdonald could have left them on the prairies to starve if it was really genocide he was after. He was trying to prevent them from becoming a public charge and, it being Canada, he was trying to do it on the cheap. The churches were willing to do it out of tithes instead of tax money that Canada didn’t have. A bargain like that you don’t examine too closely.

          This is a highly contentious part of our history. It does no one any good except the race grifters to call it, as they do now, the equivalent of the Holocaust….and to exploit that to valorize indigenous concepts of science, to get back to the point of Jerry’s post and the original comment that DrBrydon and I were objecting to.

        2. They actually weren’t required to attend residential school. Only 30 percent did. There was no “systemic coverup of physical and sexual abuse.” True, western religion was part of the curriculum as most of the schools were run by some kind of religious order, but native languages were not suppressed. That’s all part of the victim/oppressor narrative that you’d be wise to take with a grain of salt.

    1. Ophelia Benson at B&W has covered that quite extensively.

      Free(From)ThoughtBlogs have ignored it, although a lot of commentators at that site do endorse violence against women, if they are deemed to be “TERFs”.

      Make of that what you will.

  3. The HR-ifcation of science education is not a good thing, because it wastes time and effort trying to address social justice issues in an inappropriate way.

  4. A couple quotes from an old book I got recently that will be of interest:

    “Many – if not most – people who are for or against affirmative action are for or against the theory of affirmative action. The factual question of what actually happens as a result of affirmative action policies receives remarkably little attention.”

    “Ironically, a claim or assumption of national uniqueness is one of the most common patterns found in numerous countries where group preferences and quotas have existed under a variety of names. The special situation of the Maoris in New Zealand, based on the 1840 treaty of Waitangi, is invoked as passionately in defense of preferential treatment there as the unique position of untouchables in India or of blacks in the United States.”

    Affirmative Action Around the World – An Empirical Study
    Thomas Sowell
    239 pages incl. index.
    Yale U. Press

  5. Canadian higher ed is notorious for upholding a party line that anything indigenous is sacrosanct ( Stranger yet, a similar fashion trend has even reached Britain, with the appearance of the acronym BIPOC (see ). There, the “I” category would have to refer to the Beaker People—and perhaps we can soon expect the University of Rummidge to start issuing official land acknowledgements to Cheddar Man.

  6. What does ‘self-identify’ mean? ‘selection is limited to candidates self-identifying as’ Aboriginal but you must ‘explain clearly’ how you meet this criterion. Isn’t just saying it enough?

    Also what is and why do you need a “Secret security clearance’? If your security clearance is a secret, are you even allowed to tell anyone about it?

  7. In Canada Education is a provincial issue totally and the federal government cannot set curriculum in the provinces. The provinces do.

    1. Yes for curriculum. OTOH the vast majority of $upport for STEM research and training in Canada comes from the federal government. A successful grant now depends on whether the proposal includes ideas like two-eyed seeing or favours training of students from “equity-seeking groups” such as indigenous people. This is an enormous federal stick used to browbeat Canadian researchers into confessing the new faith. Apologies for overcommenting.

  8. Maybe our dismay and growing outrage would be better communicated if we stopped pointing out that science is defined, and Indigenous Knowledge isn’t, thus separating the two into such disparate topics as for them to be incomparable. Maybe we could say something like: “OH, Ways of Knowing! That’s been talked about, studied, argued, for a very long time. It even has a name or title, though it’s from Latin and so completely unacceptable to people not of the European societies – epistemology. So, let’s teach it in the proper course, Philosophy.”

  9. There could be an interesting field, known as “anthropology of knowledge,” which studied how indigenous people know stuff about their environment. The problem is that it would require a lot of knowledge, and that having every chemistry or biology class teach it would be cumbersome. First of all, every science professor would have to become an expert in this subfield of cultural anthropology, if they were to teach it seriously, not as virtue signaling homage.

  10. Again, a very interesting and slightly scary post!

    Just one comment on your remark [quote] “indigenous “ways of knowing” are given special authority because they’re held by people regarded as oppressed.”

    I do not think this fully reflects the idea behind “critical theory”. As I understand it, the theory works as follows:
    1. There are many “ways of knowing” lived/performed by their respective communities.
    2. Western colonists have power over indigenous communities, and one way they exert this power is by imposing a certain (i.e. “their”) “way of knowing” on them.

    So indigenous ways of knowing are not given priority, it is quite the opposite: YOU are the perpetrator by imposing the way of knowing of your power group on the oppressed.

    That only leaves the question of why they still wish to call those oppressed other ways of knowing “science”. I guess it is because for many “science” still has a good ring to it and is what you are supposed to do at a university.

    1. You seem to be oblivious about the “reckoning” that’s now taking place with people who were historically oppressed but even now are seen to be the victims of racism. The reckoning involves giving them greater say than their numbers would suggest, and, as in New Zealand, giving them preference in getting scientific funding. Only in a country that has gone loony after convincing themselves that they’re colonizers could they deem MM as coequal to science in the science class

        1. I object to an education which will condemn my grandchildren and my country to a third world future, turning its back on the European enlightenment. NZ is a small, insignificant country, a long way from its markets, at the end of a long and vulnerable supply chain, increasingly impoverished by its relatively poor productivity growth, losing many of its get-up-and-go citizens to wealthier countries. Indigenous knowledge is no solution to our problems.

          1. Dave I know this, I live and was born downtown Auckland to European Maori lineage. I am an avid science follower and dismayed at this turn. I wonder how far they can go down this track (MM) before it slaps them the face. Is this part of NZ’s growing pains I don’t know. We see this “other ways of knowing” being pushed around from pillar to post globally to say nothing of these other suspect forms of balancing acts, DEI etc., Nothing I say would make any difference I am not a scientist, academic, but I defend the scientific method where and when it comes up. Sadly not very often and usually in a discussion amoungst like minds.
            Our host caught me in my usual errevent mood and called it. Nothing more, nothing less

  11. In New Zealand today, we see many initiatives designed to assist minorities, especially Māori, including various financial assistance; scholarships and other education-related incentives; preferential admission to Medical School; heavily Treaty-centric, matauranga Māori-based early childhood, primary and secondary education curricula; an increasingly Treaty-centric tertiary sector; a Treaty-centric public service; naming of public institutions in Te Reo and, of course, a dedicated Māori Health Authority.

    Today, the Performance Based Research Fund is undergoing reconfiguration that confers advantage to Māori researchers and Māori research and also, but less so, to Pacific. Formulae used to allocate money to research organisations through this fund involve numeric weightings that are about to increase substantially for Māori researchers, Māori-oriented research and Māori postgraduate degree completions, and similarly for Pacific.

    For example, the Subject Area known as Māori Knowledge and Development will have the highest weighting, ahead of engineering and technology; agriculture and other applied biological sciences; architecture, design, planning, surveying; biomedical; clinical medicine; pharmacy; public health; veterinary studies and large animal science; dentistry; and Pacific research and many others. Indeed, a recent proposal for a Faculty of Science paper on mātauranga Māori at a major New Zealand university includes the phrase: Mātauranga is central to the future practice of science in Aotearoa New Zealand.
    David Lillis

    1. It’s pretty dispiriting in NZ for sure. I have noticed MM cultists here talking as if NZ and Canada jointly lead the world in something called “Indigenous Knowledge”. Canada is a bigger and less isolated country, and I imagine it’s harder for one orthodoxy to get a grip there and stifle opposition, so maybe there’s more hope there than here. A recent article by a prominent Māori academic here gives an example of what passes for thought on these matters. “incommensurable forms of knowledge” indeed. Thomas Kuhn has a lot to answer for.

  12. I am very skeptical of the notion that “indigenous ways of knowing” will help the fight against climate change. To solve environmental problems, we need modern physics, chemistry, and engineering. We need to increase the amount of carbon-free energy, such as nuclear, solar, and wind. I just don’t see how indigenous knowledge will do any of that.

  13. I think it’s pretty difficult to make the case that modern reductive science has done any better a job dealing with complex systems than indigenous sciences. Look at the history of fire management in North America or Australia and the actions, often backed by national scientific institutions have done a substantially less good job. In fact it wouldn’t be unfair to characterise the efforts of science to be buffoonery punctuated by tragedy over the last few hundred years when it comes to managing complex environmental systems.
    In fact the best use I can see for empirical science in these cases is to document how much worse western scientific ideas have been at managing fire or species or wetlands or fisheries than indigenous systems. We could then scientifically, logically and empirically declare in favour of indigenous systems and use them. Then if mainstream science wants to it can spend another few hundred years trying to get a reductive explanation for how complex systems operate but without everything burning down around them.

    1. . . .to document how much worse western scientific ideas have been at managing fire or species or wetlands or fisheries than indigenous systems.

      Tony, there is something of a natural experiment that runs intermittently in Nova Scotia that could test your views about managing fisheries. Retired litigator Andrew Roman describes the test case here:

      and relates it to outbreaks of violence between settler and indigenous lobster fishermen in 2020. The test case in 1999 was over eels, a species well-known to Mi’kmaw before Contact because they are caught in traditional weirs placed in riverine estuaries. Lobsters were not discovered until the settlers arrived with sea-worthy boats able to navigate inshore ocean waters with heavy loads. There is therefore no traditional knowledge about lobster biology to guide sustainable exploitation of this fishery, not even for ceremonial or traditional subsistence purposes, which are typically exempted in Canadian fish and game laws. Native lobster fishers, of course, today use the same commercially built motor-powered decked boats and fishing gear that settler fishers use, including radar to find the floats to which the sunken traps (“pots”) are attached.

      So if Fisheries Canada allows the unlicensed self-regulated Mi’kmaw commercial fishery to operate without the strict legal restrictions on season and quota placed on settler fishers, it could amount to a test if indigenous ways of knowing can operate a profit-driven lobster fishery more sustainably than science-based regulation can. The major question in dispute is about the Mi’kmaw’s insistence on taking lobsters when the females are laden with eggs. (The Chinese like to eat lobster roe. Occasionally pickup-truck loads of dumped lobsters, shorn of eggs, are found rotting in the woods.)

      The eastern Canada lobster fishery is thriving and richly lucrative. It is not in the throes of extinction like so many other fisheries. Are you willing to bet that taking gravid female lobsters limited only by traditional knowledge about a species for which there is no traditional knowledge will not injure it?

      The Mi’kmaw fishers have a ready retort to that question: If the lobster fishery can’t tolerate our exploitation of it, then the settlers should give up their licences and leave the fishery to us.

  14. I agree on your comment about New Zealand, we’re a lost cause for now.

    (by the way replies and further comments are still not working on anything I comment on)

  15. Looking more closely at this “Indigenous Science” job posting, I don’t think it has anything to do with scientific research or education or any other academic or scholarly activity. The job of the federal cabinet Dept. of Environment and Climate Change is to obstruct fossil-fuel extraction and pipelines for oil and gas, and to advance the government’s plan to prohibit the sale of internal-combustion cars after 2035 as part of our Net Zero ambitions. That’s all it does. It has no jurisdiction at all in any formal education at any level, a big piece of jealously guarded provincial turf. It is also not a research granting agency except for the occasional piece of contract research it might fund here and there, as many federal departments do.

    So the job of the Director will be to marshal the usual indigenous opposition to resource projects (unless they get bought off with a large rent-seeking cut for “consultation”, aka protection racket, as required under federal law). It will then massage it into something that looks like science in order to provide a cover for what the Department wants to do anyway: kill the project, whatever it is. In reality (assessed by track record) the indigenous science component is, “If you pay enough of the right people enough money, we don’t give a good God damn what you do on our land.”

    Both the oil extraction industry and the thermal power generators (in Alberta, chiefly) have been proposing to use carbon-capture and storage in played-out oil wells to reduce the CO2 their operations emit. Zealots of Minister Guilbeault’s persuasion don’t like CCS on principle, even if it works, because it prolongs the life of the fossil-fuel industry instead of strangling it outright. So I’d speculate that his department is hiring in order to give an indigenous-science gloss to a Cabinet Order-in-Council to still-birth whatever it is the industry is planning.

    Nothing more science-minded than that.

  16. I’ve been thinking about this all day. Have a couple of comments/questions. Is this move to supplement science with indigenous beliefs global or is it limited to a few countries? Is it being done in a sincere effort to advance knowledge, or is it a reactionary move against “colonialism” in principle, one that proponents will pursue whether it advances knowledge or not? Finally, is the move to elevate indigenous beliefs really a symptom of something else, namely a rejection of Enlightenment principles in general? I can’t help but think that it is the Enlightenment that is under attack.

  17. I think it’s all about power, Norman. Power is zero-sum, as Paul says below. For me to get all of yours, you must be left with none. If the source of your power is the Enlightenment, then the Enlightenment has to go. All of us good-hearted people trying to believe and do the Right Thing are merely useful idiots, just like the enablers who don’t know what they’re doing, either. Whether China’s running it all or whether it’s just one indigenous guy in New Zealand gets on TicToc with another guy in British Columbia and a trans activist from Antifa in Georgia chimes in for the hell of it,….I don’t know.

    One comment from an earlier post, also from Alberta, says, cryptically:

    “We are all dying. You can smell the change in the wind.”

    (Paul also takes a crack at defining wokeism:

  18. In Comment #13, David Lillis gives us a preview of New Zealand’s future. What can one
    say? 30 years ago, a couple I knew well bailed out of the big world for a remote paradise known as Nelson in NZ’s south island. Fortunate perhaps that they had no children, and have since departed, the guy from life altogether and the woman from Nelson.

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