AFRC Research Highlights
News and research from the Atlantic Forest Research Collaborative

Two-eyed seeing in modern forestry

Author: Cecilia Brooks

Posted on Jul 1, 2019


A new working group promotes inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in modern forest management

Indigenous Knowledge working group the first of its kind in Canada

The Atlantic Forest Research Collaborative (AFRC) has established an Indigenous Knowledge Working Group with the goal of raising Indigenous Knowledge as equal in value to western science in informing approaches to modern forest management.

Historically, development and resource extraction have occurred throughout the Wabanaki Territory guided solely with the perspective of western science, without the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge. Although western science documents the physical data surrounding resource development, the extensive knowledge and perspectives of the Wabanaki people have been excluded.

The working group hopes to change that by recognizing that all forest stakeholders benefit from the inclusion of a previously-ignored ancient body of knowledge in making informed decisions about New Brunswick forests.

Indigenous people have centuries-long connections with the natural environment

Indigenous people have lived in accordance with their unique cultural, social, economic, and spiritual relationship with their natural environment since time immemorial. The daily lives of indigenous peoples depended upon the natural environment around them and the exploitation of the natural resources for their survival was done in accordance with cultural values. These values were established over millennia with the ultimate goal of protecting the environment and ecological integrity for future generations.

The Wabanaki have lived for at least 500 years with their European neighbours and have experienced the effects of this contact through a decrease in reliance on traditional practices. However, the Wabanaki continue to maintain and rely on their Indigenous practices and beliefs that have contributed to their unique relationship with the natural world and all that it provides. This body of knowledge created by the multifaceted relationship that the Wabanaki have with the natural environment is the basis of what is now commonly called Indigenous Knowledge.

“Two-Eyed Seeing” pairs Indigenous Knowledge with Western knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge can provide insight and perspective into the potential effects of resource extraction and development on the natural environment. Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall characterized the concept of Indigenous Knowledge working together with science in assessing environmental impacts as Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing): “It is learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous Knowledge and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledge and ways of knowing, and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”

Inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in modern forest management

Worldwide there exist many examples of IK collaborating with western science and it is increasingly acknowledged that incorporating diverse perspectives and knowledge in resource development decisions elevates the validity of these decisions.

Sharing western science with indigenous people while also sharing indigenous knowledge with scientists will create a more fulsome perspective and create an inclusionary approach to forest research for the Wabanaki forests of New Brunswick.


Mara Mallory:
Public Engagement
Atlantic Forest Research Collaborative
University of New Brunswick