NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community

NAIITS: an Indigenous Learning Community’s project, “Spirituality of Wellness in Community,”  has been undertaken with a view to the intentional engagement of Western science in a journey of theological education rooted in Indigenous worldviews. NAIITS has focused its resources toward the establishment of an asset-based and trauma-informed core for their relatively new M.Div. program. Introduction to Living in a Good Way was taught for the first time in 2022 by Dr. Stephanie Goins and Renee Kylestewa Begay, and used the concepts of two-eyed seeing and “All My Relations” to consider the resonance of Indigenous and Western knowledges.

With the help of the advisors Dr. Cheryl Bartleett (Prefessor Emerita of Biology, Cape Breton University) and Dr. Naomi Pierrard (Etuaptmumk Consultant for the Nova Scotia Dept. of Education & Early Childhood Development) the project encouraged engagement with vocabularies from Mi’kma’ki to encourage the Indigenous approach to science-religion dialogue.

  • Etuaptmumk refers to 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. It has been translated as “two-eyed seeing” and signals to the process of using both eyes together for the benefit of all.
  • Msit No’kmaq means that everything is connected and related. This evident truth, translated as “all my relations,” is readily known to the Indigenous “eye” but often overlooked from a worldview dominated by the Western “eye.”

The project elaborated the potential for Western science to benefit from Indigenous knowledge through engagement with the above concepts. NAIITS’ efforts to foster spiritual wellbeing in community and the decolonization of ways of knowing led to two questions.  Of Western science, the project asks: what are the key elements that anyone preparing to work in Indigenous community needs to be aware of? and, in what significant ways does recent scientific thought and research support Indigenous understanding of “All My Relations”? Respectively the questions relate to the neuropsychological aspects of trauma and the appropriate grounding in the interconnectedness of all things.

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In furtherance of the AAAS mission of advancing science in service to society, AAAS|DoSER’s role in the Science for Seminaries project is to support efforts to integrate science into seminary education. AAAS|DoSER does not advise on or endorse the theological content of the participating seminaries.