Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence

May 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-4: Colleges for the Community, Media Reviews

Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, N.M.
328 pages

Review by Michael Wassegijig Price

Greg Cajete’s new book, Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence, is a giant first step in redefining science from the perspective of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and other indigenous peoples in this hemisphere. Western scientists and philosophers have, for the most part, ignored the knowledge and practices of earth-based people, or, in cases like the pharmaceutical industry, have exploited the medicinal and herbal remedies of indigenous peoples. But, since the Red Power Movement of the late sixties, Native Americans have been rebuilding their communities; reclaiming their languages, traditions, and ceremonies; and redefining the world around them through the eyes of their ancestors.

Native Science demonstrates a totally new, yet ancient, worldview of earth and nature. It explores the spiritual connections between humans and all living things. In the book, Cajete defines “science” as a living philosophy, not just a mathematical search for truth. Ecology is based upon relationship, not empirical formulas. Conservation is based upon respect and responsibility, not resource-based economics. Sustainability is based upon reciprocity, not risk assessment analysis.

At Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota, we use Native Science in a class entitled “Anishinaabe Understanding of Ecology.” Although this book doesn’t focus particularly on the Anishinaabe tribal perspective of nature, it does provide a framework of understanding and allows us to analyze our own cultural traditions and beliefs relative to the natural world. It is my hope that this book will inspire Native scientists, academics, and tribal community members to redefine science and the use of technology according to their own tribal traditions.

From astronomy to planting seasons, from ceremony to health and nutrition, from creation stories to a sense of place, Native Science covers the holistic and complex perspective of indigenous knowledge and practice. At a time of deforestation, atmospheric deterioration, overpopulation, and exorbitant human consumption, we need a new environmental philosophy and ethic.

The ancient knowledge and belief systems of Native Americans may answer the questions of long-term, human sustainability on this earth. We need a new ethos before we genetically engineer our environment into sterility.

Michael Wassegijig Price is an enrolled member of Wikwemikong First Nations and serves as the chairman of the Leech Lake Tribal College Department of Science & Mathematics.

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