Can We Engage Indians in Science?

Recently I was asked to give a talk at a conference for serious science writers and bloggers who wondered what it would take to engage more American Indians in science communication.

In traditional native circles, science isn’t separated from other ways-of-knowing: it intersects with art, culture, story-telling, healing and spirituality. In fact, as scholar Gregory Cajete (Tewa) points out, there is no word for science in most North American indigenous languages.

Some of the very features that make science interesting—its linear qualities and rational foundations—can simultaneously dissuade folks (including Indians) from engaging in science.

Indeed, the hallmarks of a good theory, according to my graduate school mentors, are application and generalizability.

In contrast, Native Science is local, contextual and personal. And to make the divide seem greater, science aligns with spirituality in the indigenous context.

At a time when those of us in the online science community decry scientific policy decisions inflected with politics and religion, how can we invite and embrace indigenous ways-of-knowing within scientific circles, knowing that spirituality infuses ways-of-knowing?

My host, and its founder, Alberto I. Roca, asked for advice on how to encourage American Indians to participate in science circles.

One approach may be to persuade native writers that, by relating our own stories, through blogs and websites, we become the story-tellers who share our ways-of-knowing. We can therefore manage the message.

By taking control of the story, we become our own gatekeepers.



About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in ethics, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, social media, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Can We Engage Indians in Science?

  1. Ivar Nielsen says:

    Creation Myths contains real cosmological knowledge.

    Mytho-Cosmlogical site:
    The Milky Way Mythology and the Stories of Creation –
    New Solar and Galaxy Formation Knowledge –
    Myth Forum:

    Best Regards Ivar Nielsen


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