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Dr. Leroy Littlebear – “Big Thinking and Rethinking: Blackfoot Metaphysics Working in the Wings, Reflections by a Blackfoot”

Dr. Leroy Littlebear – “Big Thinking and Rethinking: Blackfoot Metaphysics Working in the Wings, Reflections by a Blackfoot”

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Nov. 15, 2018
Hosted by the Canadian Parks Research Network at the University of Alberta

Summary

  • How does the foundational basis of actions become established?
    • How are these foundations articulated?
    • Can they be articulated?
  • Science, within Western society, has been seen as one of these unquestionable foundations—a form of analyzing that assumes objectivity—however, the authority of science can be questioned and many Indigenous ways of knowing challenge the authority of objective science
  • Land may be seen as a source of metaphysics
    • The paradigms of a society are shaped by interactions with the land. The paradigms then determine the beliefs, behaviours and relationships of the society, so then the metaphysics of societies are determined.
  • Language is a tool of metaphysics. The nature and structure of language create a loop where forms of knowing are both created and reinforced through the form of a language
    • Language itself can be colonizing
    • What are the ways in which language (or other manifestations of knowledge and culture) shape individuals?
    • The structuring of both Western mentality and language create the apparent need for an ‘other’
  • Land’s relationship to metaphysics ties land to identity and culture
  • Place is a determinant of identity
  • Ensoulment: a foundation of human psychology
  • Ex. Axiology of Blackfoot Culture:
    • In science: Time and space being the same, non-locality, Higgs particle, special dimensions,
    • In economics: sustainability
    • In psychology: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (holistic approach rather than hierarchical?)
    • In law: oral histories
    • Relationships: Dealing with complexity
  • Current practice continues to reproduce Western metaphysics of practice formed centuries ago.
  • Demonstrates the clear need for a transition to a new application of knowledges, axiology, and metaphysics

Comments from Workshop Facilitator, Thomas Snow

  • Cannot have Indigenous knowledge without Indigenous people
    • The knowledge has been gained throughout thousands of years
    • Often people will try to take shortcuts to incorporate the knowledge, but they need to build a relationship first
  • Example: Tom often dealt with entry-level parks people who had no training with regards to Treaty 6. He would have to step in to provide them with crucial information

Notes from Workshop Breakout Session

  • Indigenous voices first – guiding questions limit the conversations
  • Brady Highway – what do the settler communities want from Indigenous communities? To take away knowledge?
  • Find a place to create space for Indigenous people to lead the way in conservation
  • Tension between “taking away knowledge” and wanting to engage with Indigenous communities
  • How can a single representative from Indigenous communities speak on behalf of a large amount of people (who all have varying values and opinions)?
  • Comparing differences between communities is not productive
  • “How to make this more human for Indigenous People” – with regards to collaboration on parks management and conservation
  • Challenges with framing PR – ensuring information shared to the public is fair to everyone
  • What about revenue generation for the local Indigenous communities?
  • Creating a place for productive conversations to occur and facilitate these discussions – the communities will decide what is appropriate for conservation management
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