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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Transference of Indigenous Knowledge in

Aesthetic Appreciation of Western Art


By Susan Thames for Masters Project in Cross Cultural Studies
April 2010

Master's Project (pdf)


Through my course of study for this degree I have developed my own definition of an Indigenous Knowledge System: The Native way of knowing is made up of a balance of human/environment interaction and spiritual consciousness. Being aware of the inner and the outer world at the same time, and knowing how they work co-dependently.

The “modern materialistic and technomechanistic worldview,” puts man above all else functioning independently and in competition with the rest of the world around them. This competition creates turmoil between the inner and outer worlds and prevents them from being able to exist harmoniously. The elements of harmonious living, as stated in the article, Alaska Native Education: History and Adaptation in the New Millennium, by Augayuaqaq Oscar Kawagley come as a system of education, governance, spirituality, economy, being, and behavior. There is a balance of all of these, providing technology that is necessary for sustaining a level of lifestyle that emerged from this balance. This balance gives the Indigenous World an acceptance of space within the confines of time, they do not need to control the space or the time but instead exist within it, and their existence within space and time give a more holistic and cooperative approach to knowing and understanding (Kawagley, 1999).

A Native Knowledge System is circular in its reasoning. The framework for their knowledge system comes from their respect and connection to their environment and the interdependence that grows from that connection (Kawagley, 1995). The “body of knowledge” develops over time and is built on knowledge that is passed from generation to generation providing an independent way of life for all those within the individual cultural community (Johnson, 1992). Wisdom of the Elders by David Suzuki and Peter Knudtson (1992) reinforces this concept with each of the “Sacred Native Stories of Nature,” pointing out the Native connection to nature and the reality of one of the most significant differences between Western and Indigenous cultures. Western culture will not change to fit in with the environment. Instead, they change the environment to fit their needs, and are destroying it in the process. The Native culture sees their place as outsiders, respects the system as it exists, and understands as an outsider they must adapt to their environment, to change their ways to insure the sustainability of their environment.




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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified May 10, 2010