How sanctioning traditional knowledge may promote fundamentalism

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Wilson, S & Wilson, A 2012, 'How sanctioning traditional knowledge may promote fundamentalism', paper presented to the International Indigenous Development Research Conference 2012, Auckland, New Zealand, 27-30 June.


Mainstream education systems are finally starting to recognise indigenous pedagogy and knowledges, but now indigenous academics need to research and acknowledge some of their own weaknesses as well as building upon strengths. In North America an indigenous transformation has begun - it is now relatively common to have traditional indigenous ceremonies taking place in universities, and for elders to speak to classes and teach courses. It is great that traditional knowledge is being recognised, and it is long overdue. However, not many have openly discussed the down-side of this indigenous transformation: many elders, through their experiences of colonisation, have themselves become abusers and/or fundamentalist in their views. In Canada this has resulted in many misogynous, sexist and heterosexist practices becoming university sanctioned as aspects of traditional Aboriginal culture. Women are forced to wear long skirts, head and foot coverings at traditional ceremonies, are forbidden from being present with sacred objects and are forbidden from participating in classroom activities while menstruating. This fundamentalism is spreading as ‘traditional’ dogma is passed as indigenous knowledge and practices in schools. The presenters will address how can indigenous distinctiveness be enhanced while at the same time stopping the spread of dogmatic interpretations?