Etuaptmumk as Reconciliation

By: Dr. Carmen Rodriguez de France

Dr. Carmen Rodriguez de France

Education Collaborator

 As an immigrant of Indigenous heritage from the Kickapoo Nation, Carmen acknowledges the privilege and responsibility that she holds to live and work on the land of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, and on the land of the W̱SÁNEĆ and the lək̓ʷəŋən people in British Columbia. Her work is always situated at the intersection of social justice, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the experiences of in-service and pre-service teachers. She currently facilitates courses on Indigenous worldviews, Epistemologies, and Education in the Department of Indigenous Education at the University of Victoria. Her research is always motivated by her own interest to be a life-long learner and promote diversity and social justice. 

As a former school teacher in México, Carmen understands the importance of developing and exploring approaches to teaching and learning as a tool to advance critical thinking. Through her participation in a variety of community-based initiatives in schools, recreational centres, art galleries, libraries, and other spaces for learning, her work focuses on creating awareness to better understand, appreciate, and learn from the histories and stories of the Indigenous people of Canada and other parts of the World. She is committed to strengthening collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada aiming to create a better shared future.


Even though Velcro has been around for many years, I still prefer to tie my tennis shoes the “old fashioned way” using shoe laces. If you also prefer shoe laces, you likely know that in order to securely tie your shoes, you need to align both ends of the shoe laces to make them the same length, hold both ends tightly, and pull them to make a knot or a bow.

When thinking of Western knowledges and Indigenous knowledges in our everyday life, I like thinking of the shoelaces as metaphors for these ways of knowing. In order to create pathways towards reconciliation, we need to develop ways of knowing and doing that celebrate the strengths that both of these ways of knowing provide. So let’s start then with our everyday life and think about how we use technology, for example, to learn Indigenous languages via an app, how we rely on certain over-the-counter medications to alleviate aches and pains, or how we also might use teas or properties of foods to re-establish our sense of wellbeing. You might be wondering: how can we weave these ways of being into our classroom and use them in tandem to convey the strengths that each of these knowledges offers? I will present a few examples for various age groups, but remember that at any age, we all appreciate learning through fun and interactive activities.

In a classroom filled with  young learners, I would first introduce the concept of Etuaptmumk with a visual representation (see images below), and I would then offer examples: how they use their right and left hands everyday. How both hands help them to do different things such as tie their shoes, eat their breakfast, and so forth. I will emphasize on how some of us are right-handed, some of us are left-handed, and how sometimes, depending on the context, we use one hand more than the other but in the end, both hands help us do our work better. We could also talk about holding a knife and a fork with each hand, using our feet to keep balance, and so forth.

One always needs to be careful when talking about able bodies, and include a variety of examples of ways in which our bodies work to help us accomplish our goals.  Children are wise, and they can come up with other ideas to illustrate these collaborations. For example, they might say that mechanical things are as useful as things found in nature: a net made with cedar rope or a net made of plastic. The use of one’s legs and the use of a wheelchair or a scooter to move around.

Photo of someone tying the pink laces on their black and white running shoes. They are tying their left shoe and their right shoe remains untied.
Illustration of two puzzle pieces, one blue and one green, fitting together. Each piece has an eye on it. From Integrative Science.
Photo of someone using a knife and fork to cut into their dinner (meat, vegetables, fruit) on a white plate.

After exploring these analogies, we could move to talking about Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and Western ways of knowing and being. Many of us are familiar with celebrations from different corners of the world, and we might use those as examples at certain times of the year. One such example could be traditional dances of the “Matachines” from Mexico and other countries in Latin America. The syncretism displayed in these dances and ceremonies reflects the amalgamation of Western religion and spiritual Indigenous beliefs. Here is a video of what one of these dances looks like.

 Another example of the strengths and beauty of Indigenous and Western knowledge can be found in the ways in which people use what is known as  “Sky Knowledge” to find their way when navigating the waters. Anthropologist Wade Davis, in his book entitled The Way Finders: Why Ancient Knowledge Matters in the Modern World, invites us to think about the relationships between Western and Indigenous ways of knowing when learning about plants, geography, and many more areas of human knowledge that converge when learning to live. This book and Dr. Davis’ videos can be used with older learners as they use vocabulary and constructs that might be difficult for younger students. However, some of these ideas might be easier to  convey and explore through the book by Inuk cartoonist and writer Alootook Ipellie entitled The Inuit Thought of It, in which he described arctic inventions that have contributed to contemporary ideas.

Further to these examples, we can introduce music through the beauty of Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) opera-trained singer and composer, Jeremy Dutcher, whose music has touched many hearts as Jeremy utilizes recordings of traditional Maliseet songs and the Wolastoqiyik community found in the archives of the Canadian Museum of History. The original recordings are woven into contemporary music forms which includes instrumentation with piano, guitar, and other western instruments. Other Indigenous opera-trained  performers include mezzo soprano Marion Newman whose participation in the opera “Missing” conveyed  the challenges many Indigenous families experience with the loss or the disappearance of young women and girls. While this topic might be difficult to discuss, music might be a doorway to introduce these historical episodes to older audiences. The opera is sung in Stó:lō and in English.

One last example I’ll share here (though there are many more), is to appreciate the value of sports and physical activity through western and Indigenous lenses. Gymnastics, for example, is a millenary sport and has been practiced for thousands of years. While this sport continues to be relevant and deemed important in international competitions, it has defined the body from a western perspective, which includes females being ‘perfect’ only if they are of a certain height, weight, and appearance. This is changing, and we can see how many sports are weaving Indigenous principles into what was traditionally “Western sports,” and consequently, accepting that the traditional knowledge that Indigenous athletes carry, serves everyone in the quest for creating a shared future that honours each of us and celebrates each other as human beings.

By acknowledging the beauty and strengths of Indigenous and western ways of knowing, we will not only be acknowledging the principles of Etuaptmumk; but as importantly, we will be honouring the visions and aspirations of Elder Albert Marshall who proposed: “Etuaptmumk – Two-Eyed Seeing adamantly, respectfully, and passionately asks that we bring together our different ways of knowing to motivate people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike, to use all our understandings so we can leave the world a better place and not comprise the opportunities for our youth (in the sense of Seven Generations) through our own inactions.”