Groping for meaning in science

My colleagues and I have been groping with the idea of Native Science.

One reason is our earnest attempt to legitimize American Indian perspectives–whether it’s science, story-telling, art or language.

Labels emerge: native science, local knowledge, ways-of-knowing, and more.

The problem with the label “science” is it instantly cleaves folks and two groups emerge: pro-science and anti-science.

At this week’s meeting in Washington DC with science communicators, my pal Doug Herman, a geographer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, landed on one simple term: knowledge.

The landscape is about knowledge.

In our opinion that levels the playing field.

And rather than starting the conversation from a dichotomous perspective–rather than focussing on us versus them–let’s consider that communities possess knowledge systems, informed by a variety of experiences.

We all possess knowledge.



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 american indian, authenticity, Indian, native american, Native Science, science communication and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Groping for meaning in science

  1. I have a wonderful memory of a Traditional teacher on mine. We were in a bar in the Amazon. My teacher, who holds PhD’s in Anthro and Ecology, was telling us (a mixed group of Europeans and Native Americans from a variety of tribal backgrounds) that his people interbreed with porpoise. We got into a huge discussion about the impossibility of that – genetically. It was one of those splendid cross-cultural moments. (Even at 65 I tend to struggle to integrate my two culturally framed world views.

    Thanks for the post!


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