Tag Archives: indigenous knowledge

Indigenous memory codes, the wisdom of crowds, and other summer listening

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Surely in the holiday sunshine of a northern hemisphere summer we TOK teachers deserve to rest our minds — even as we nourish them. Do you share this belief? If so, you might, like me, enjoy listening to interviews or thoughtful conversations while preparing salmon for the barbecue, watering the garden, or walking on the beach. Often, podcasts treat ideas not with bullet-point-analytical-delivery but with chatty interviews and reflective conversation – more diffuse, more relaxing. Continue reading

“Who’s an Indian now?”: concept, definition, and significant ruling

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 14 gives us a dramatic example to take to a Theory of Knowledge class: Métis and non-status aboriginal people in Canada are now defined as “Indians” by the federal government. The people who now fit into this category are celebrating. The implications are significant for the rights they can now claim, the programs and services to which they now have access, and the increased clarity of their place in federal and provincial jurisdictions. Moreover, some consider it to be an acknowledgement of their history and a validation of their identity. But why do I suggest a judicial ruling with political ramifications as an example for a class on knowledge? What does it illustrate that is relevant to our course? Continue reading

Clever cons and TOK 2: What does storytelling do to knowledge?

160215 scam roadsign(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Stories have power. In the scams of con artists, they have the power to “get you emotionally transported enough that you stop asking questions, or at least the questions that matter.” So warns Maria Konnikova, whose recently published book The Confidence Game prompted my post last week, and this week. At the same time, however, stories have an enriching role in the creation of knowledge, not just in obvious areas such as literature and history but also in areas such as the sciences where we might not expect a narrative to carry us. What, then, is the role of storytelling in telling lies, and telling truths? Continue reading

The human beings behind knowledge: some resources for Indigenous Knowledge

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog)To appreciate knowledge as a human achievement, we want to humanize the contributors to it, the people who work within every field of knowledge. We want to bring to imaginative life their creativity, fallibility, clever methods to overcome fallibility, and splendidly diverse achievements. We want to bring to life, too, what their knowledge means – to them, to their field, to us.

There is one area of knowledge where it is essential to engage our students imaginatively for them to grasp what the area of knowledge is even about. I’m referring to Indigenous Knowledge, where the knowledge is seemingly defined by who possesses it. In this area of knowledge, many of the knowledge questions we want to pose can be asked with understanding and grasp of implications only if we have some awareness of culture and history. Continue reading

Classification and implications: Who is black, or indigenous, or Jewish?

(by Eileen Dombrowski) I ended my last post with questions about Rachel Dolezal’s claims to be black: “Are her personal knowledge claims the deciding factor, in your mind, for determining her racial identity? Why or why not?” What has captured media attention, it seems, is the way in which her story pits her own personal knowledge claims about her own racial identity against social knowledge claims of racial classification – and this in a society where racial categorization is charged with assumptions, associations from history and politics, values, and implications for treatment.

What captures my own TOK attention, however, is more generalized. It’s the differing bases and justifications for general classifications, of course. But even more intriguing is the way particular examples fit – or, being human, sometimes dramatically refuse to fit – into the categories assigned to them. As soon as we take two steps back from Rachel Dolezal’s story, others flood into the space. Who is black? Who’s an Indian? Who’s Jewish? Continue reading

Indigenous “enoughness”: Perspectives are more complex than they seem.

(by Eileen Dombrowski) Why do I have such ambivalent reactions to this video “Enoughness”, when it is so obviously a splendid film to take to a TOK class?  Not only does it give a short, pithy summary of perspectives on the natural world and their implications for how we treat it, with graphic illustration, but it also supports a new area of knowledge in the TOK course, indigenous knowledge.  Moreover, the value it places on sustainability puts it utterly in harmony with IB education.  But….but…but for me, perhaps it’s my objections to it rather than my general endorsement that make me consider it particularly valuable for TOK.

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Who’s an “Indian”?: classification and implications


Classification carries implications.

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC TOK blog) Who’s indigenous? And does it matter? These are significant questions, with significant answers. They are relevant to TOK both through the new area of knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and an old area of knowledge, ethics – as well as to all the ways of knowing involved in classifying our concepts, and, in the knowledge framework, to the topic of concepts/language. Two stories in this past month’s news bring these questions to life: a court contest in Canada about who is classified as “aboriginal” and a conflict in Tanzania over whether indigenous people have any claim to their traditional land. Continue reading

Schooling the World: free preview this month

schoolingworld(by Eileen Dombrowski) Schooling the World has just announced that their film is available this month for free preview.  Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden is now streamed with subtitles in eleven languages.  Its free downloadable discussion guide has abundant material that is fairly easily re-framed to make it explicitly relevant to TOK.

I recommend this film highly as background for Indigenous Knowledge.  It prompts some giant knowledge questions about shared knowledge in different cultures — what knowledge is considered most important, how it is learned and validated, and how it is shared from generation to generation.  This is a thought-provoking film, beautiful to watch.

How ever did they manage?

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC blog, Sept 20, 2014)   “How ever did they manage?” I ask myself. I’ve spent today at the Mesa Verde World Heritage Site  in Colorado, tromping around pueblo sites and gazing at the cliff dwelling houses of the native peoples of the American southwest. It’s hot out – too hot. How ever did the people get water to drink and irrigate their corn? Simply eating and drinking in this arid environment would be such a problem. Then what comes to my mind is one definition I’ve read of a word that is so difficult to pin down: culture. “Culture,” goes this definition (one of many definitions), “is a set of solutions to problems.” Continue reading

Indigenous Knowledge: definition, implications, and controversy

whale-33817_640(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC blog Sept 13, 2014) About all areas of knowledge, we ask questions that take us straight to methodology and social context. Who owns knowledge? How is it passed on as shared knowledge, and within what controls of methodology or power? We may think instantly of the sciences, and even controversies over current scientific conclusions and scientific products (e.g. medicines and technologies). Yet some of the oldest knowledge in the world is equally ignited by these knowledge questions, Continue reading