Two-Eyed Seeing

Sydney Kuppenbender and Ashley Carlson – 2020

Ashley Carlson and Sydney Kuppenbender

Two-Eyed Seeing

For hundreds if not thousands of years Indigenous peoples of the world have been environmentalists, conservationists and restoration practitioners all under an objective lens. Many traditions have been lost but much traditional knowledge has been passed on inter-generationally, and is often unknown to people of non-Indigenous descent. Indigenous peoples and their teachings are underrepresented in science and sustainability fields, and as Indigenous students in environmental sciences, we acknowledge and have experienced the gap in conversation around traditional knowledge in academia.

This project centers around the Two-Eyed Seeing approach, a concept which holds both Indigenous and Western science worldviews at equal value. We intend to encourage the conversation of sustainability from a traditional knowledge point of view, and to ultimately allow Indigenous students to feel included in the conversation.

The following resource is broken down into five hoops: social, environmental, and economic, which are known by Western science as the pillars of sustainability. We have added a fourth pillar, traditional, upon which the other three pillars are founded, and all which build into the final fifth pillar of sustainability. Within each hoop we will discuss multiple viewpoints of the respective topic, that connects both Western and traditional understandings of sustainability. The audio clippings within each hoop are recordings of knowledge-keepers reflecting and sharing their expertise around these topics. Through these connections, we hope to highlight the importance and influence of traditional, land-based knowledge upon Western science understandings of sustainability.

We would like to acknowledge the teachings and relationships that we hold with the land upon which we learn and reside; Treaty 6 territory and the Homeland of the Metis. We would also like to thank the elders and knowledge-keepers and community members who donated their valuable free time and expertise to aid us in the pursuit of this project.

Enjoy, Sydney K. and Ashley C.

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  1. I really appreciate the way your project seeks to improve sustainability science by demonstrating an expanded theoretical framework. Your project adds new pillars of sustainability as well as providing important indigenous perspectives on existing pillars (how I would summarize). I think this type of framework expansion is really helpful for people to contemplate their ideas about sustainability and maybe grow to understand the concept of sustainability more broadly than they might have based only on their background and positionality. As a current masters student in SENS and previous student in ENVS 401 with some interest in sustainability theory, your project caught my attention. I’m curious, did the 5 pillars you present come out of the interviews or were they decided on before interviewing? And how would you describe the pillar of sustainability to differentiate it from the larger concept of sustainability that all 5 pillars support?

    Really well done! Thanks for helping me to think about sustainability in broadened and a more inclusive way. I hope future ENVS 401 projects will build upon what you’ve started here!

    1. Hi Lauren, i am so glad you appreciate our hard work! The addition of Traditional as a fourth pillar to the pre-established three pillars of sustainability was intuitive prior to developing our project but solidified upon our analysis of our transcripts. Perhaps we should have been more clear, “sustainability” is not a pillar but more the roof that is built upon the four pillars. Sustainability has emerged as a result of these pillars. Again thank you for your questions we appreciate and encourage them!

  2. This is amazing! Such an important topic that you’ve highlighted here, and delivered in such a creative way. In an ideal world, how would you like to see a program of study or department address this shortcoming?

    As a second note, the way you guys have addressed this topic is amazing. Collecting these recordings is of great importance and value. I couldn’t think of a better way to deliver this material. Further work could be done to develop a series of similar resources for educators interested in incorporating first nations perspectives into their teaching. I could easily see this becoming a masters or PhD project. Well done.

    1. Hi Jay,
      I think the great thing about this class is that the project it’s self can be taken over by future students.

      Our goal was to create a resource that could be used in the classroom to ensure that a conversation based on traditional knowledge is at least started.

      ( I think people don’t know what they don’t know in a sense, once we begin to bridge the gap of unknowing I am hopeful that curiosity will take over and from there, there will be more of a demand from students as a collective to learn about traditional knowledge as a science.)

      We’ve created the resource the next steps would be to develop a lesson plan or assignment to go along with the resource and try to get instructors on board with implementing it in the classroom.

      I hope that answered your question!

  3. Wow, Sydney & Ashley, this a project that you both should be very proud of!

    I think it will give everyone who watches lots to reflect on, as I know I am. Like Jay, I think the way you’ve assembled and shared this traditional knowledge is important and effective. I think it would be a valuable resource to share in 201. Keep up the great work.

  4. Thanks for making this video Sydney and Ashley! It’s really wonderful and offers important perspectives to sustainability thinking. One of the suggestions from students in ENVS 201 was that the course needed more Indigenous knowledge represented.
    This video is a nice resource. In your work on this project, did you come across any literature you could recommend that explores any of these issues?

    1. Hi Andrew! Thank you for your feedback on our resource, we are so glad you liked it! I don’t have specific pieces of literature to recommend, however I would look into work being done by Ella Bowles at UBC Okanagan, she does research on the interweaving of traditional and western knowledge and ways of knowing. Please feel free to share our resource widely!

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