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Indigenous Methodologies: North America

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Often, discussions of Indigenous methodologies and epistemologies position indigenous scientific methods as supplementary to mainstream Western science as opposed to legitimate sciences on their own. Because of this misconception, the way non-Indigenous researchers engage with Indigenous communities often ignores the scientific developments and contributions of Indigenous peoples and cultures.

To challenge this, the Indigenous Epistemologies and Methodologies Reading Group aims to assert the validity of Indigenous scientific methods. To achieve this, the reading group will be run by two Indigenous scholars at Cambridge and will incorporate the scholarship of Indigenous North Americans primarily, while also including workshops for teaching attendees how to engage with various Indigenous communities in practice.

Through this reading group, our ambition is that we de-center ‘decolonial theory’* as the primary means of engagement with Indigenous methodologies and epistemologies, recognizing that Indigenous epistemology predates colonialism and deserves to be interrogated as a stand-alone group of scientific methods.

*We follow Tuck and Yang’s scholarship asserting that ‘decolonization is not a metaphor’ and that co-opting such language while simultaneously not advancing the sovereignty of Indigenous communities depends harm to our communities.


Unit 1: Intro to Indigenous Methodologies

What are Indigenous Methodologies and how do they differ from Western ones?

Unit 1 Materials

  • The American Indigenous Research Association. Considering Indigenous Research Methodologies: Critical Reflections (Joe Gone). Second Annual Conference ‘A Sense of Place’, 2014.

  • Nelson, Elias. ‘Making Native Science: Indigenous Epistemologies and Settler Sciences in the United States Empire’. Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 2018.

  • TEDx Talks. Etuaptmumk: Two-Eyed Seeing | Rebecca Thomas | TEDxNSCCWaterfront, 2016.

  • Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. ‘Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor’. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1 (2012): 1–40.

Unit 2: Methodologies

How do we engage in scientific enquiry the Indigenous American way?

Unit 2 Materials

Unit 3: Medicine and Wellness

How have indigenous groups successfully cultivated medicine and nutrition in their areas?

Unit 3 Materials

Unit 4: Native Natural Sciences

What is an indigenous way to view environment and why is it more important now than ever?

Unit 4 Materials

Unit 5: Medical Sciences

How are Indigenous conceptions integrated into genetic work?

Unit 5 Materials

Unit 6: Planetary Sciences and Technology

What are some indigenous conceptions of the planet and the future?

Unit 6 Materials

Unit 7: Indigenious Tech

How are digital technologies developed and operated using Indigenous protocol and logic?

Unit 7 Materials

This syllabus was co-authored by London Vallery and Myesha Jemison. Design created by Myesha Jemison via Canva.

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