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Toward more ethical engagements between Western and Indigenous sciences

Sharon Stein, Cash Ahenakew, Will Valley, Pasang Y. Sherpa, Eva Crowson, Tabitha Robin, Wilson Mendes, Steve Evans

2024 Canada

There is growing interest among Western-trained scientists in engaging with Indigenous sciences. This interest has arisen in response to social pressures to reckon with the colonial foundations of Western science and decentre Western ways of knowing, as well as recognition of the need to draw upon the gifts of multiple knowledge systems to address today’s many complex social and ecological challenges. However, colonial patterns and power relations are often reproduced at the interface between Western and Indigenous sciences, including the reproduction of epistemic Eurocentrism and extractive modes of relationship between settlers and Indigenous Peoples. This paper seeks to support Western trained scientists to recognize and interrupt these patterns in order to create the conditions for more ethical, respectful, and reciprocal engagements with Indigenous sciences. We also offer a map of the different ways that Western sciences have thus far engaged Indigenous sciences. We particularly highlight the emergent possibilities offered by a reparative approach to engagement that emphasizes the responsibility of Western science to enact material and relational repair for historical and ongoing harm, including by supporting Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty in science and beyond.

epistemic pluralism, Indigenous knowledge, colonialism, epistemicide, responsibility, reparation