The learning process and Two-Eyed Seeing

Culture doesn’t only affect what you learn, but also how you learn it and how your abilities are perceived. For example, Indigenous cultures reward patience and completeness. This can conflict with academic environments where quick conclusions are sought and encouraged.

Consider the following story told by the Apache mother of a young child who felt this cultural difference early in his education.

His teacher held up a drawing, then put the drawing down and asked the class what they saw. I saw a horse!” “A horse!” “A horsey!” came the excited responses.

The Apache boy did not raise his hand. This alarmed the teacher, so she arranged a parent-teacher meeting during which she suggested the boy be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The mother turned to her son and asked him what he saw.

He said, “I saw a brown horse on a green hill. It was a sunny day and there were three clouds in the sky.”

One Wawatay program goal is to account for the difference between how Indigenous students learn and how science is taught in non-Indigenous settings. Our strategy for doing this is through Two-eyed Seeing, which encourages all students to view phenomena from two perspectives: traditional scientific analysis and the Indigenous Way of Knowing.

Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall, who introduced this concept explains it as, “Learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing… and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”