The article, Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teaching of Grass focused on a scientist, Laurie, who wanted to research the effects of indigenous people harvesting sweet grass. Her proposal was belittled by men in her department and deemed a “waste of time”. Determined to prove them wrong, Laurie continued with her experiment and in the end concluded that harvesting of the sweet grass yielded more sweet grass than not harvesting did. The inspiration of Laurie’s study came from the philosophies of the indigenous people which state “...never take the first plant that you see”, “take only what you need”, and “if we use a plant respectfully it will stay with us and flourish. If we ignore it, it will go away. If you don’t give it respect it will leave us.”
Everyone comes from a different background and is primarily shaped by the environment around them. Some bits of knowledge are taken for granted; they are assumed as common knowledge. For instance, someone from the east (John Henry) may know how to tie sailing knots and think everyone knows this but they may not know what wind is, where someone from the west (Trevor Phillip) is well versed on the nuances of the wind and take that knowledge for granted. The scientists that belittled Laurie’s proposal could have been more helpful and not eaten their words in the end had they been open to disciplines outside of their own. The transdisciplinary approach could potentially yield the same results for each individual because “experiments are not about discovery but about listening and translating the knowledge of other beings.” For instance, an anthropologist would be interested to see how the indigenous people would harvest the sweet grass and how it was used ceremoniously, and a modern scientist would be interested in how it is harvested now along with all the climate impacts and implications. The results would be similar, just different interpretations and methods.
- M.J. Williams