Moving Beyond Widdowson and Howard
Traditional Knowledge as an Approach to Knowledge
Traditional Indigenous knowledge is increasingly recognised and incorporated both in and beyond the university. In Canada's Northwest Territories, this recognition has been manifest as policy mandating that scientists incorporate the knowledge of elders and hunters into their environmental and climate change research. However, the recognition of traditional knowledge has not always been met with acceptance and understanding. This article analyses the book Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry by Francis Widdowson and Albert Howard (2008), which is highly critical of traditional knowledge. Widdowson and Howard advocate for cultural assimilation by arguing that traditional knowledge is incompatible with, and inferior to, modern Western science. In their line of reasoning, the current application of traditional knowledge transplants ‗neolithic‘ culture into modernity and stunts the ability of Aboriginal peoples to participate in modern Canadian (and dominant Western) culture. While other critics argue against the racialised and inflammatory discourse, I try to salvage insight from the authors' misunderstandings; Widdowson and Howard's failed grasp on traditional knowledge actually illuminates a fundamental problem. The problem is not in meshing Indigenous and scientific knowledge; rather, the problem is in bridging the gap between Indigenous and scientific ways of knowing. I engage the work of A. Irving Halowell, Tim Ingold and scholars of Dene knowledge and traditional lifeways to discuss how Indigenous religion and worldview create a unique approach to knowledge.