During the development of the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation Water Project, it was equally important that our students had the teachings of western science taught along side our traditional Cree teachings. The science teacher and the elders worked closely together to ensure knowledge that was translated, reflected both philosophies of science and culture.
The elders insisted that the development of the students’ education couldn’t come from solely from text books and that understanding the world around us included the teachings of Cree Indigenous Knowledge. This knowledge has made a long journey, carefully being passed down to succeeding generations over thousands of years. The foundational message our students received was that our Cree people have had a symbiotic relationship with nature -- a relationship necessary for existence in sometimes harsh environments. This is a relationship that exists without text books.
Our people understood science before it was scientifically published. We have a intimate relationship with all living things and our spiritual bonds to the earth gave us these scientific secrets long before the rest of the world read it in a book. The elders pass keepers this knowledge down to the youth, and were able to see the comparisons of both sources of knowledge. This method of teaching provided the students with education that nurtured their minds and their spirits.
Priscilla Settee, a northern Canadian Cree woman, makes the case in an essay: Indigenous Knowledge as the Basis of Our Future, which can be found in a collection of essays: Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future -- Link to Amazon
She expands her case in her University of Manitoba Master's Thesis: Honouring Indigenous Science Knowledge as a Means of Insuring Western Scientific Responsibility . Her thesis is well worth looking at, so we have provided a link to its PDF. Link to Thesis