First Peoples

Aboriginal Ways of Science

There is a way of organizing thought that uses human observers to rigorously observe the things of the world, deduces from them patterns of behaviour and organization and draws from those further patterns and opportunities for thought, understanding, and technological and social development. It is an aboriginal concept. Here is a written and graphic representation of something very much like it from Syilx culture. This particular aboriginality, however, is European. It is …


A Book to Change the World

The cover image is of a water treatment plant built to replicate the wave patterns of water within plants and within high country streams. It effectively cleans an urban water system and has been shown to increase growth in plants and support more complex insect and animal life than the still water it is drawn from. 

Goethe believed that the most precise instrument of scientific observation was the human body, but that it did need to be trained to observe and pattern without changing the pattern it observed through intellectual or technological intervention. It was an early form of science that, curiously, is identical to the populist one that exists today, exemplified by the British Columbia Elementary School Science Curriculum, acknowledged as a world leader, here:


British Columbia Science Curriculum

With a bit of colour added for highlight. 

There is nothing about this document that is limited to technological science, Newtonian science, Quantum science, or any other form of methodical thought popularly understood as “The world, the universe, and everything.” Interestingly enough, even though the document stresses the value of indigenous forms of science, including those of the Syilx, it does so in problematic terms like this:


In other words, aboriginal science is a cultural product that can serve the ends of science. If you think that’s an unfair reading of the document, here’s what the document goes on to say…


Tellingly, Western Science is not included in this list of traditional ecological knowledge and wisdoms developed by a given culture. One odd consequence of this approach is that indigenous forms of earth knowledge are asked to add holistic material to non-holistic science, in a world view in which “humans are not … more important than nature.” Shouldn’t that be, like, obvious? It’s in the primary texts of Western culture, too, and yet, for some reason, it is given away to one cultural group and denied to others, in a world view that separates ‘wisdom’ from ‘science and technology’. Really. Although it might seem obvious that science should show some wisdom itself, the document goes on to say that …


Traditional science? Well, only in the sense of a cultural preference. It is, in fact, Goethe’s science that is traditional. Western science itself is revolutionary. I find it troubling that aboriginal wisdom is privileged in this conversation, while Western knowledge is characterized as being different than wisdom, although Goethe was certainly working from within a wisdom tradition thousands of years old. Fortunately, the British Columbian Ministry of Education is also troubled by this. Here’s what they say:


Contrasting perspectives? Hardly. Goethe pointed out that wisdom and artistic, or cultural, approaches weren’t separate from scientific ones, and did so from within the Western tradition. Let me make a suggestion: aboriginal perspectives are understandable because they are familiar. All humans have aboriginal cultural roots. If it were otherwise, speaking with the Syilx would be like attempting to speak to whales or sea stars. It isn’t. It is as simple as …


Dismantled Fence

Colville Indian Reservation

… taking down the barbed wire and walking out into grass that belongs to the grass.

3 replies »

    • I’m glad you noticed! Let’s see if Ken picks up on it! It was put in there for him like a chicken wing on a string. 🙂


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