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Implementing Indigenous and Western Knowledge Systems (Part 2): “You Have to Take a Backseat” and Abandon the Arrogance of Expertise

Heather E. Castleden, Debbie Martin, Ashlee Cunsolo, Sherilee Harper, Catherine Hart, Paul Sylvestre, Robert Stefanelli, Lindsay Day, Kaitlin Lauridsen

2017 Canada

Despite innovative technological “solutions” to address ongoing water crises in Indigenous communities, significant disparities persist in Canada. Financial investment in infrastructure is necessary, but it is hardly sufficient to address the real problem: entrenched colonialism. One of the greatest challenges in decolonizing research is to prevent that research from reproducing the very categories it is seeking to critique and dismantle. We share findings from thematically-analyzed interviews with academic and community-based researchers who conducted water research with a stated intent to implement Western and Indigenous knowledge systems. Findings revealed that while there is co-learning, ontological and epistemological assumptions carried into these relationships often impede truly integrative practice. Respondents shared how they worked through these persistent barriers of a colonial system.

Indigenous knowledge systems, water research, water management, water policy, integrative knowledge, semi- structured interviews, Canada