Two-Eyed Seeing is a Mi’kmaw concept brought forward by Elder Albert Marshall. Etuaptmumk, as it is understood in Mi’kmaw,
“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 … and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all”.
This approach to the world is not entirely new, or limited to Indigenous culture, but it is timely and relevant. Integrative, transdisciplinary, or culturally collaborative work has been going on for years and we are fortunate to be living in a society that is beginning to see the value. In particular, the concept of Two-Eyed-Seeing has been adopted in Education, Health and private industry and gains momentum every day, not as a fad, but as a legitimate basis for human enterprise.
A lifetime ago, before beginning my own journey within education, I read “Wisdom of the Elders”. Written by Peter Knudson and David Suzuki, this book approaches Indigenous knowledge and Western Scientific Knowledge as equally valid interpretations of the natural world. This was the first time I saw Indigenous knowledge treated as valid and valuable and I immediately understood the implication for society.
The perspectives are vastly different, highly necessary, and only those that are comfortable with both can move us forward.
Etuaptmumk is not totally unfamiliar to educators, we are consistently required to view our work from the perspectives of parents, students, and society. Communicating about curriculum and pedagogy with parents can be effortless when it is done with the motivations and strengths of the family in mind. In the same way, a substantial relationship with students allows us to more easily guide the learning. Finally, understanding the way in which school culture impacts and is impacted by the larger society allows us to make learning relevant for students.
Indigenous students are also very familiar with the concept. Often described as walking in two worlds or on two paths they learn to balance extremely different ideologies and value systems while finding a space to create a self that can flourish in both. By recognizing the value of this skill, we can support them in developing it further and ultimately support the creation of powerful members of society.
Métis throughout history have helped to bridge understanding between Indigenous and Western European approaches to our world, and perhaps this is why I feel compelled to continue the work. But the bottom line is that Etuapmumk is the path forward. As with eyes, we each have a dominant side, a default position. But also as with eyes, the creator designed us in most cases to have two, so that our view can be broader, more inclusive and more importantly, a truer representation of the world around us. As educators in Saskatchewan it is our responsibility to strengthen our understanding of the Indigenous cultures with whom we share this space. As we learn and grow our two-eyed seeing will develop and provide us with a more developed and accurate way to describe and interpret the world around us.