Decolonizing the Mind to (re)educate Ourselves

Lessons learned from the Faculty of Native Studies course "Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience"


Ping! When I received an unexpected email notification from the Faculty of Native Studies about a new online course called “Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience (NS 115),” my interest was instantly piqued! I began to wonder how science could be reconciled with the complex epistemological and ontological frameworks that emerge from Indigenous knowledge.

As a first-generation immigrant in this country, I learned about the “history and values” of Canada through a very Eurocentric schooling system. Even as a young student, I never felt satisfied by the approaches and discussions, especially around topics of colonization, racism, and imperialism. As someone hailing from postcolonial India, I found the curriculums Eurocentric, revisionist, and even inaccurate. I was one of those inquisitive kids who always questioned what I learned and what I felt was “wrong”—truthfully I can’t say I have changed much in this regard! I am always on a learning quest in order to grow, evolve, and become a better citizen (or bad “(bio)citizen”*) when necessary! Throughout my university career, I have foregrounded the importance of (re)educating myself to improve my own conduct to better serve my fellow Treaty people and especially Indigenous peoples. Having gained extremely important learnings and experiences during my degree, I can much better contextualize and articulate my own existence as well as understand the issues that affect those around me, particularly those whose voices have been marginalized by mainstream society for too long. 

I’ve come to understand that acknowledging truth is an important part of reconciliation and moving forward as a pluralistic society together. This, of course, requires us to confront the ills of the past as well as ongoing intersectional racism (which BIPOC are gaslighted to believe is non-existent), particularly symbolic and structural violence that affects Indigenous peoples. This begins with (re)educating ourselves to change how we think and act towards Indigenous peoples. Having taken NS 115 and other Indigenous-taught and Indigenous-focused courses during my university career, I’ve come to learn a lot about Indigenous worldviews and how they differ from the hegemonic Eurocentric worldview which privileges notions such as self-interest, the primacy of property, and of course science—ideas which we come to internalize, unsurprisingly given our sociopolitical environment. Society constantly reminds us that science is the rational answer to all, that it trumps all other bodies of knowledge, including but not limited to lived experience and interknowledge* (which incorporates academic and community-based knowledge). However, science is not always as objective, rational, or infallible as we are made to believe. Science (environmental, physical, technological, etc.) has a lot of room to grow through interaction with Indigenous ways of knowing. It also has a responsibility to encourage and foster Indigenous autonomy.

NS 115 exposed and filled in gaps in my knowledge that I didn’t even realize I had. My biggest learnings include the idea of co-production/co-constitution and situated knowledges. Like most people, I was relatively blind to the ways in which culture and science intersect and how “scientific knowledge is not simply a transcendent mirror of reality.” The truth is science and culture are co-constituted—scientists affect the God trick, they see everything but apparently from nowhere in particular. When we buy into the claim that science is objective, we are effectively conflating science with neutrality. The truth is, however, different people see things through different lenses, and this is where the importance of feminist objectivity comes to play. The marginalized can often bring more critical, complex views to the table because unlike the powerful in mainstream society, they must contend with multiple cultures and standpoints to simply survive. Therefore, a critical positioning (language, gender, culture, class, race, body) allows people working in disparate fields, including but not limited to STEM, to have stronger objectivity—weak objectivity conflates neutrality with objectivity. After taking "Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience," I walked away with a truly robust understanding of what Indigenization, reconciliation, and decolonization mean and how they differ, the importance and necessity of nation-to-nation engagement, and the significance of Indigenous autonomy and capacity building in sectors that affect them, including decision-making in the realm of technoscience.

Ultimately, I recommend “Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience to all U of A students and to members of the wider community. The first step to reconciliation is decolonizing the mind; that requires a lot of learning, unlearning, and relearning from settlers, but you will thank yourself for engaging in that process. NS 115 was incredibly formative and opened my mind in ways I could have never imagined answering many questions but above all inspiring a curiosity and drive in me that continues to grow and inform the way I think and act. You will come out of the course with immensely important and necessary learnings that will benefit you no matter the direction you take or the unique journey you forge. I must add that although the course is incredibly accessible and offered remotely, the brilliant instructors make sure to encourage (optional) interactional learning sessions where I was able to make the most of my learning. I am grateful for every moment I had to spend with the incredible and inspiring Dr. TallBear and of course all my fellow peers! Take the course folks – it’s one you will keep with you for a lifetime! I promise. 

Current U of A students can enroll in NS 115 (Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience) for Winter 2022; non-U of A students can apply to take the course as an Open Studies or visiting student, or apply to audit the course.


About Ansh

Ansh (he/him) is a recent Political Science graduate with a History Minor and Certificate in International Learning (’21 BA, First Class Standing). When he isn’t engaged in reading and research, he can be found singing at venues like Churchill Square and the Jubilee. A polyglot performer, Ansh’s love for music has also kept him connected to his South Asian heritage. To fulfill his strong belief in “giving back,” Ansh has donned several hats over the years in leadership/advocacy roles related to issues close to his heart (including UNICEF Club President, PSUA VP, OASIS Social Sciences Councillor, member of the Registrar’s Student Advisory Committee, Minister’s Youth Council, and EPSB’s Anti-Racism and Equity Committee). Ansh loves to unwind by exploring and appreciating Edmonton’s underrated natural beauty or simply by meditating and sipping a refreshing cup of tea.