New Course Forms Partnership Between Indigenous Science and Western Science

January 8, 2018 - 12:45pm

The University’s first science course co-taught by a Biology Professor and a Traditional Knowledge Keeper launched at VIU Cowichan last spring.

VIU Biology Professor Dr. Suzie Nilson and Traditional Knowledge Keeper Stella Johnny, from Quw’utsun’, taught separate knowledge on the science of plants and the environment in VIU’s Interdisciplinary Studies 211.   

The course was made possible thanks to funding from Peninsula Co-op and Buckerfield’s, as well as two anonymous donors. The donations outfitted the lab with equipment.

The concept began a decade ago when Nilson and Delores Louise, a VIU Elder-in-Residence, began meeting to talk about what could be done to bring Indigenous and Western concepts of learning and knowing science together.

During the semester, Johnny and Nilson taught on the same topics relative to plants and the environment. Indigenous science about plants was shared by Johnny through teachings and stories. Western science included standard methods with topics about plants, the environment and health. The lab component of the course included working with cedar bark, medicine walks, learning about microscopy, photosynthesis and testing plant medicines on bacterial populations. 

While teaching, Johnny and Nilson respectfully learned from one other, and joined the students in appreciation of the support and contribution of Elders in the community who shared the same interest. The course will be offered again at VIU Cowichan in January 2018.

*This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017/18 edition of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories on the VIU Magazine webpage.

Tags: Aboriginal | VIU Magazine

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