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Module 8: Indigenous Ways of Knowing

About the Video | Key Concepts | Before Watching | After Watching | Resources and Interesting Intersections


About the Video

Bruce Martin, now at the University of Michigan, grew up with the Ojibwe people. He remembers going fishing with his Ojibwe friends, who had their own way of "reading the lake" to predict the location of fish and the day's weather conditions. Bruce reminds us of the strong connection between language and culture. While English is a language of nouns, Ojibwe is a language of verbs. For the Ojibwe, the world is alive, and dynamic relationships exist between the people and their natural environment. 

Video: AcademIK Connections Module 8: Indigenous Ways of Knowing

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Key Concepts

Experiential Learning: the process of making meaning from direct experience.

Ojibwe (or Anishinaabe): among the largest groups of Native Americans divided between Canada and the United States.

Bands: a word used to describe the sub-groups that the Ojibwe and many other Native Americans are divided into.

Ojibwemowin: also known as Anishinaabemowin, the native language of the Ojibwe people. It is the fourth most widely spoken Native language in North America and a key trade language of the Great Lakes region.

Spirit World: an external environment for spirits. Though independent from the natural world, both the spirit world and the natural world are in constant interaction. Through mediumship, (a form of communication with spirits) these worlds can consciously communicate with each other.


Before Watching

  1. Can you think of a time when you learned to perform a complex task simply by figuring out for yourself how to do it? Have you ever learned to perform a complex task by carefully watching an older (or just another) person do it and then practicing it yourself? Which of these ways of learning do you think is better? Why?
  2. Think about the words you use frequently to describe the world around you and the situations you encounter. Do you know the origin of the words you use?
    • Select several words/terms you use and find their origins and their meaning


After Watching

  1. Discussion Topics related to this video
    • What problems can arise if you do not learn through experience?
    • What is the difference between the way the Ojibwe people and you connect and interact with the world around you? What differences exist in the way you and the Ojibwe use language to describe the physical world in which you both live?
    • Give an example from the video that describes a different way of knowing. Can you think of any other examples? Explain.
  2. Related Indigenous Knowledge Topics for further exploration
    • Have you ever become close friends with someone who was from a different culture than your own? Name some things in your life that have been shaped by the culture you grew up in (e.g., food, language, relationships)
    • Have you ever visited another country? In what ways did you find it to be different from where you live? Have you ever been to another city or town and seen or heard something that you would not normally see in your town? Think about how differences in culture can be experienced in different places regardless of size.


Resources and Interesting INtersections

  • Ojibwe
    Site giving detailed information on the Ojibwe people.
  • Ojibwe Language
    Native language website that gives detailed information about the Ojibwe language.
  • Experiential Learning
    Information on experiential learning styles, the experiential learning cycle, and forms of knowledge.
  • Ojibwe Waasa-Inaabidaa Documentary
    PBS documentary featuring the history and culture of the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes (United States-focused).