Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: Two-Eyed Seeing

The FAUW Indigenization Reading Circle meets monthly to discuss readings relating to Indigenization and reconciliation in the university context.

“Two-Eyed Seeing” by Cheryl Bartlett, Murdena Marshall, and Albert Marshall* reports on a program developed at the University of Cape Breton to increase Indigenous enrollment in science. The article describes and reflects on a learning process that could be used to move post-secondary programs toward a recognition of the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and those of “mainstream (Western) science.” One key challenge the authors identify is finding the humility to acknowledge the circumstantial relevance of different ways of knowing. Ensuring that the process respects distinct knowledge communities requires institutional participation by Indigenous elders to validate the path taken.

Participants in the reading circle were divided about the value of the “two-eyed seeing” framework. On the one hand, some regarded it as a conciliatory position that dodges more radical concerns about the violence of colonial ways of knowing. Some forms of academic knowledge are not benign ‘eyes to see by’ but reflect practices of dominance. Interpreting the framework closer to its intended STEM field of application, other participants could see two-eyed seeing as a promising generative framework. The co-learning journey described showed a process whereby new knowledge “tools” could be incorporated into a sovereign cultural setting.

Some forms of academic knowledge are not benign ‘eyes to see by’ but reflect practices of dominance.

The program of delivering Mi’kmaw and other Indigenous knowledge in the Integrative Science program was short-lived, seemingly for lack of deeper institutional commitment. This challenge of transitioning from committed founders to a permanent presence was underlined as a potential obstacle to Indigenization at the University of Waterloo.

We also discussed broader concerns about the culture of the Anglo-European university system and its resistance to recognizing Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing. Of particular concern were the exclusion of spiritual concerns, the erasure of the knowing and learning subject, and the relative neglect of the community life of students.

Ryan George wrote this blog post. Ryan is one of the coordinators of the Indigenization Reading Circle and a lecturer in the Department of Economics. The reading circle meets again on February 21 to read “Sources of satisfaction and stress among Indigenous academic teachers: findings from a national Australian study.”


*Cheryl Bartlett, Murdena Marshall and Albert Marshall, “Two-Eyed Seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing”, Journal of Environmental Studies and Science 2, pages 331–340 (2012).

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