My article is about Native traditional knowledge. This article will introduce how we can use traditional knowledge in schools. Its intent is to give communities, and schools in particular, some encouragement to implement traditional knowledge.
One example about traditional knowledge comes from the mighty Canada goose. The majestic Canada goose signals to the rest of the flock that it wants to take off. It wants to fly and soar. If the rest of the flock agrees with its judgment, they will take off and go somewhere. How does one know what that goose is doing? Traditional knowledge is knowledge that is passed on from generation to generation. Keen observation and years of experience confirm and validate that knowledge.
Like that goose, someone has to take the initiative and leadership to include traditional knowledge in schools.
Different people and different culture define traditional knowledge. How those people look at traditional knowledge may be different or similar in many ways. Native traditional knowledge is as old as its people. One generation after another passes it on the next but it is getting harder to promote and preserve knowledge with each successive generation. Not enough of the elders or parents are working actively to promote and preserve. Also the traditional way of living is no longer the dominant lifestyle it once was.
Inuit, First Nations, and Metis have to work harder to preserve their culture and language. One avenue is traditional knowledge: our tool to save our language and traditional culture.
One mechanism to research, document, teach, and learn is through the school. The school is an excellent vehicle to use and to get started. Your school and community can take off and go forward majestically like the Canada goose: flying high and proud. Practicing traditional knowledge will help and strengthen community members to feel proud of who they are, where they come from and where they want to go and can go.
The concept that traditional knowledge is no longer relevant is a misconception. We still have, use and practice it in our lives, at work, play or rest. Native traditions encompass our whole being. Legends tell us the knowledge that we can use today. The wisdom and experience of the elders are invaluable. They have lived, survived and practiced traditional knowledge. We need to rekindle the fire and it only needs a few little sparks to set it alight. One individual person can be that spark. Put a couple of good minds together and the final result can become beautiful and exciting like colorful and synchronized fireworks.
Because traditional knowledge is so vast it can be made to be very interesting and stimulating. Knowledge in every way is life itself. It includes history, legends, morals, true stories, games,
songs, beliefs, relationships, the environment, wildlife, weather, the sky, medicine, healing, values, respect, love, wisdom, intelligence, family, and a lot of another areas that are intangible can be learned and gained through traditional knowledge.
Whenever an elder passes on, a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and understanding go to the grave. It is not too late to research, record, and preserve our traditional knowledge. Time is a critical factor. It is now or we lose more of that knowledge at every funeral. Native people still have the benefit of having elders who possess that knowledge.
Does knowing about traditional knowledge hamper academic education? Instead of diminishing academic knowledge, it should enhance and increase it. Academic education and traditional knowledge should go hand in hand to promote language and culture in both disciplines.
Not everybody is going to go on to become academics in the traditional sense of the term. Some of the best contributors in our Native communities know only traditional knowledge. Academic education should not be sacrificed because of traditional knowledge or vice versa.
How do you get started on using traditional knowledge at school? One only needs initiative and a little passion.
Organization and structure along with planning and coordination can lead to a successful traditional knowledge culture at the school. Having a strong school board that strongly values traditional knowledge can go a long way. Support from the administration where one Native person is in charge of cultural programs is crucial to its success. Much of the time, some of the costs can be absorbed by the cultural budget. Fund-raising for some extra dollars doesn’t hurt.
In closing, traditional knowledge is very important to Native communities and schools. It should be taught to preserve language and culture. With some good planning and coordination, it can be successfully used. The elders are our greatest resource for traditional knowledge. There is still time to work on traditional knowledge but it has to be done NOW.
We must allow our children and their children to know and understand their past. It is their right to acquire traditional knowledge. With a little encouragement, passion, and direction, traditional knowledge can be put in its rightful place to stay.