CASTS conference 2005 update
----- Original Message -----
From: Lynda Kitchikeesic
To: Don Bain Moderator
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2005 2:58 PM
Subject: casts conference 2005 update
CASTS CONTACT: Neil Jones
MEDIA CONTACT: Lynda Kitchikeesic
For Immediate release
October 31, 2005
Scientists Say "Two-Eyed-Seeing" Improves Vision
350 Aboriginal scientists, educators, and students re-focused their gaze, and began measuring scientific achievement on a new scale, during a conference in Nova Scotia last month held to celebrate an unusual worldview. "Two-Eyed Seeing" considers traditional knowledge and western science equally, as complementary knowledge forms, and applies both towards advancing humanity's shared goals. The unique topic elicited presentations around scientific health, environmental, and, technological advances and achievements by indigenous people from around the globe. The Canadian Aboriginal Science and Technology Society (CASTS) organized the conference as part of an overall strategy to address the under-representation of Aboriginal peoples in scientific and technology-based careers. A meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin with CASTS board of directors Chairperson Carol Ann Budd, and conference chair Dr. Lee Wilson took place during the conference, and a second one is scheduled for tomorrow, November 1st, to discuss CASTS future.
The conference theme "The Spirit of the East" symbolizes the eastern renewal born through the alliance developed between CASTS, the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR), and, Cape Breton University (CBU), to promote "Two Eyed Seeing". Invited speakers and many of the presenters are internationally recognized Indigenous scholars, and were selected by the Aboriginal scientific society for their ability to include the two worldviews in their work.
From Native astronauts to ethnologists, and chemists to senators, the more than eighty presentations from 4 continents were uniquely linked by the vision of Mi'kmaq Elder Albert Marshall. Two Eyed Seeing encompasses looking through the eyes of science and technology and indigenous traditional knowledge, and combining the two knowledge forms to build a clearer and more complete picture of the natural environment, for it's proper care. Cape Breton University's Integrative Sciences program, now graduating a new breed of scientist, was recognized as the academic leader responsible for bringing the CASTS Conference to Canada's east coast for the first time. Indigenous experts and leaders of all kinds, referred to the challenges in, and offered their solutions to, incorporating Two Eyed Seeing into a professional and educational environment.
Commander John Herrington, Chickasaw from Oklahoma, is an astronaut and the first Native American to walk in space. On board NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour, Herrington carried ceremonial items and a particularly sacred eagle feather into space. A feather from the same eagle was on board when the Space Shuttle Challenger met disaster, and, as the Elder who had presented both feathers has since passed on, honouring everyone by bringing one home safely to earth seemed a sacred duty. Relating Two-Eyed Seeing to space flight through the story of the feather and his relationship with it, Herrington summed it all up with, ".And so on board Endeavour, if it was spiritual in nature, it was handed to me!"
Herrington's address included extensive NASA footage of Canadarm and his space walk, enlivened by an informal running commentary, to which the overflow crowd of students, scientists and Elders responded with a standing ovation. After the conference, Herrington had this to say: "I very much enjoyed my time in Nova Scotia. The CASTS Conference was a fantastic opportunity to share the joys of spaceflight, but more importantly, to share the message of mentorship and motivation that made my journey a reality. Everyone has a vast amount of potential when it comes to success. CASTS provides the catalyst to help motivate and nurture the professionals of tomorrow."
Living right up to those words, the first Native American in space spent a morning at the elementary school of the Membertou First Nation. First he walked the kids through the Endeavour launch on film. Then, using a 6 inch high rocket which he quickly made out of common household items, Herrington and the kids performed a scientific experiment that resulted in several successful rocket launches. The NASA flightsuited astronaut's immediate impact on the Mi'kmaq children was beyond description, but their collective awe soon turned to academic delight as they chose different formulas for each launch. It seemed appropriate to give Herrington a sneak preview of dreamcatchers the children had made as part of an art exhibit - about them realizing their dreams.
Dr. Ivar Mendez, Bolivian from La Paz, pioneered long distance robotic telementoring neurosurgery with his scientific team at Dalhousie University in 2002. On the conferences second day, Mendez, who is also an internationally recognized sculptor, said in his plenary remarks that he draws heavily upon his creativity in his medical work, and a synergy between both pursuits drives his research. About the conference theme, and as the Chair of the Brain Repair Centre, Mendez stated, "The value of ancestral knowledge of native sciences to Canadian society is immense. This knowledge encompasses the spectrum from medicinal properties of plants and herbs, and the holistic approach to health care to environmental issues. 'Two-Eyed-Seeing' is a wonderful metaphor for a more complete vision of scientific and medical knowledge that incorporates into its fabric the contributions of aboriginal cultures, science and experience. Attending the CASTS Conference in Cape Breton was refreshing and stimulating for me as I believe the contributions of aboriginal science and scientists to the environment, medicine and the cosmos is crucial for Canadian scientists and Canadian Society."
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck, Cree from Saskatchewan, is a neuropychiatrist recently appointed to the Canadian Senate. Dyck's scientific team at the University of Saskatchewan works on the underlying reasons for strokes, Alzheimer disease, and schizophrenia, and she demonstrated the use of the medicine wheel in guiding her work. Dyck had this to say after the conference, "The ways in which the sciences are taught in the Western tradition generally assume that science is neutral and that any knowledge generated by scientific enquiry is unaffected by the beliefs of the particular culture or the individual scientist, herself. Even today we tend to think of a scientist as being the epitome of an unbiased, logical expert - perhaps like Tuvok from Star Trek! Does this kind of image affect the kinds of people who are attracted into a science career? Does this kind of image affect how we teach science and how we retain science students? According to the beliefs of the Plains Indians, the Medicine Wheel teaches us that all things have four aspects; ' the spiritual, the emotional, the physical and the mental'. In order to attract and retain Aboriginals and women, to remedy their current under-representation in science careers, it is essential to focus not only on the mental and physical aspects of science as is done currently, we must also focus on the spiritual and emotional aspects of science. We need to find out what inspires interest in science and what motivates a person to enter into science careers."
Dr. Greg Cajete, Tewa from New Mexico, is an ethnobotanist extensively involved with art and its applications to education, as well as, the author of many university course materials. Cajete told of the proven value of culturally-responsive curricula, afterwards saying, "The CAST conference was an especially gratifying and memorable event for me, it was my birthday on September 23, I had a chance to visit with my long time friends Albert and Murdena Marshall and to see first hand the progress of the Integrated Indigenous Science program at University of Cape Breton. After 30 years of work in the field of culturally responsive science education for Native students, it was especially comforting to know that my work was not in vain...and that people in Canada were applying and innovating on the principles of Native science in new and exciting ways."
Hereditary Mi'kmaq Chief Stephen Augustine, a Canadian Museum of Civilization curator and ethnologist, who also provides expert witness to court cases, is recognized legally for his knowledge both of oral history and treaties in eastern Canada. The CASTS Youth Day plenary speaker thought the youth day ".was an invigorating and a positive experience for me. Our young people need to hear from their traditional leaders and from indigenous people who have acquired mainstream educational and professional achievements without losing the integrity of their Aboriginal identity".
Dr Lee Wilson, Metis from Manitoba, and the CASTS Conference 2005 Chairperson, is a chemist and responsible for the fully attended math day forum on the second day of the conference. In Wilson's estimation, "The theme two-eyed seeing is still lingering in my mind, my heart, and my soul.. It is a powerful metaphor that goes beyond my words and this page. Science describes the world we can see with our eyes whereas the human spirit describes aspects or our world that the eyes cannot see" - this is "Two-Eyed Seeing". I will refer to the words of one of my heroes Louis David Riel and in his statement, he too is referring to 'Two-Eyed Seeing'. Riel said 'My people will sleep for 100 Years, but when they awaken, it will be the artists who bring heir spirits back.' "
Carol Ann Budd is an Ojibway scientist, and the CASTS Board Chairperson. Budd had the unenviable position of being placed before Commander Herrington at the school. But Budd kept the kids rapt right through their recess with an experiment involving 'polymer spaghetti', later saying, "Being with the kids at the Membertou elementary school was the absolute highlight of the conference. I got a bigger charge from my time with the kids than I did from meeting the Prime Minister (apologies to Mr. Martin). I felt honored to have been able to capture their attention. Their level of interest and enthusiasm for the nylon synthesis experiment was beyond what I imagined it would be."
As an early member of CASTS, Budd thought Two Eyed Seeing an appropriate vision for CASTS Conference 2005, saying "To me, this combination of western science and traditional knowledge is like combining wisdom with knowledge - very powerful. It adds another dimension, a more human aspect to the objectivity of science, an aspect that includes a longer-term view and raises the philosophical questions about science."
Dr Cheryl Bartlett, is a 1st tier Canada Research Chair, and the academic innovator behind the integrative science program that inspired the CASTS conference committee to select Cape Breton University. Enabling everyone's two eyes with CBU's collaborative science-based courses that are uniquely guided by local Mi'kmaq knowledge holders and belief systems, Bartlett is also working on a series of films with the traditional knowledge holders in the area, at their request.
Mi'kmaq Elder Albert Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation, is the visionary behind the "Two Eyed Seeing" worldview presented at the CASTS Conference 2005
Mi'kmaq Elder Murdina Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation is educated in both knowledge systems, and the truly "Two-Eyed-Seeing" Elder helped establish and teaches in the Integrative Science degree program. Marshall facilitated an Elder's circle, held on the theme of traditional knowledge, on the last day of the conference. The 50 participants used a talking feather and a microphone as tools to share their views in the customary way with contemporary means, and, modern time constraints, although sharing knowledge of sciences, arts, and relationships were noted by CASTS as a result.
The 340 registered participants, along with 33 display booths and personnel, had Sydney hotels and airlines booked solid, bringing around a million dollars into the area. Events were held at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, the Esplanade (boardwalk), and Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Government sponsors included Health Canada, Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and many sponsors from the community in Sydney.
Related pictures are available on the conference web site www.CASTSConference2005.ca
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]