Legitimate Knowledge

What is recognized as legitimate knowledge (and thereby the “truth”) emerges from social, economic, and political forces. In other words, knowledge is socially constructed. With colonization, Indigenous knowledge—passed down over many generations through oral tradition—was devalued and, in fact, suppressed by colonialist authorities via various social policies (such as residential schooling). Reconciliation requires that the legitimacy of Indigenous knowledge and wisdom be recognized. On April 22, 2017 (Earth Day), approximately 1,500 Indigenous scientists joined non-Indigenous scientists the world over in the March for Science, intended as support for climate change research and a protest against President Donald Trump’s anti-climate change (and anti-science) agenda. For Indigenous participants and allies, the event was also a statement that “Indigenous knowledge is just as important as Western science” (Fontaine, 2017) and, in fact, is science (Snively & Williams, 2016). Scholars point out that Indigenous knowledge and Western science are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. With Indigenous knowledge closely tied to the environment and long-past events, bringing the two together is important in solving some of the most important problems of our time, such as relationships between groups of people, global sustainability, and the equitable management of resources (McCallum, 2012; Snively & Williams, 2016). In fact, a growing body of research is drawing upon both Indigenous and Western science to further the development of knowledge about diverse topics such as prehistoric patterns of human migration and geological events (e.g., earthquakes) (Mortillaro, 2016).


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There are also calls to integrate Indigenous knowledge into the K–12 science curriculum (McCallum, 2012). Think Outside the Box: In addition to modifying the school science curriculum, what other changes might be necessary for the legitimacy of Indigenous knowledge to be recognized?

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