We know that traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples predates science and modern thinking by hundreds of years but let’s look at some comparisons to judge the value of our knowledge.
What about the field of medicine? Did you know that the vast majority of medication on the market comes from Aboriginal societies? Scientists have found that if they consult Aboriginals, they have a one in two chance of discovering the healing properties of a plant as opposed to a one in 10,000 chance if they rely on their own knowledge and equipment. In fact, Aboriginal knowledge of medicines supports a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. Further, it is estimated that the herbal remedies market is also in the billions per year. What does this mean for Aboriginals? Very little, even though researchers and scientists come to Aboriginal communities to study and ask questions concerning our treatment of illnesses, it is the pharmaceutical companies that take the knowledge and make profits with nothing redirected back to the holders of that knowledge. How many times have you gone to a doctor and not been given a prescription? So, what do we do? Catalogue our traditional cures and patent them to make them the communal property of our nations. Then profits can be redirected back to the rightful holders of the knowledge. A traditional remedy for back or joint pain could be worth billions of dollars.
What about the field of environment and natural resource management? On issues of nature, Aboriginal peoples know more about life cycles, habitat and behaviour of animals in their territory than any scientist. While scientists are learning how to study animals in their natural environment, Aboriginals have lived with them and relied upon them for subsistence for generations. Not only that, Aboriginal peoples have been in the business of successful wildlife management long before words like conservation or wildlife reserves were used. Who knows more about the fragility of nature -trees, land, water, plants and wildlife – than the Aboriginal societies that have lived there for hundreds of years? They have seen how, when and whether at all nature will rebound from potential devastating events.
In Central America, a group of Aboriginals have been growing naturally colored cotton for years instead of dying it. A scientist went down there and patented it and is selling it as an environmentally friendly alternative in the clothing business and making millions. No money has been given to the Aboriginals who developed this cotton and they live in Third World conditions.
What about psychology? The treatment of patients in society seeks to place them in isolation to work on a particular problem at a given time. Aboriginal treatments of people are holistic. Healing circles and traditional methods seek not only to cure the individual as a whole (mind, body, spirit) but involves people who are a part of the individual’s life. It takes a community approach in recognition of the importance of creating a better environment in the process of helping the individual heal and grow.
In the field of business, the measure of success is the bottom line of a deal or in the case of society the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is the indicator of all money activities happening in a given year. The higher the amount has always been viewed as better. The problem is that it includes misery as good for society such as divorces or outbreaks of disease. They are good because people are spending more money on lawyers and doctors.