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Traditional Knowledge and Humanities: A Perspective by a Blackfoot


  • Acknowledgments: This article was originally presented at the symposium “Is There, Can There Be, such an Activity as World Humanities?” Simon Fraser University, January 27–28, 2012.

LEROY LITTLE BEAR, Professor Emeritus, Native American Studies Department, University of Lethbridge. Specialties: Aboriginal thought and education. E-mail:


Aboriginal peoples are forever explaining themselves to non-Aboriginal people: telling their stories, explaining their beliefs and ceremonies, and introducing ideas that have never crossed the non-Aboriginal mind. Western knowledge operates from a linear, singular view; it views the world from order beneath chaos; it is very noun oriented; knowledge is about oneself in relation to everything else in a relativistic sense. Aboriginal knowledge has a very different “coming to know.” It is holistic and cyclical; it views the world from chaos underneath order; its languages are process and action oriented. Knowledge is about participation in and with the natural world.