In June 2013, I attended the Canada-Mexico Round Table on Aboriginal Higher Education hosted by the University of Lethbridge. This Roundtable brought together an interesting assemblage of program leaders and instructors from ten Indigenous universities in Mexico and fifteen primarily undergraduate universities in Canada. For me, the most intriguing attendee was a Mayan woman Elder from southern Mexico who was invited to the podium to address the delegates. With the help of a translator, the Elder provided us with a beautiful message of love and perseverance. She spoke specifically on the misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar and the spreading of the popular culture myth that ancient Mayan visionaries had predicted that the world would end in 2012. With a smile, the Elder confirmed for us that they did not expect an apocalyptic ending; rather, for them the year 2012 marks the time when a new era would begin. She finished her address by telling us that the Mayan people have resisted over 500 years of Spanish domination of their lands and lives by secretly teaching their children traditional ancestral knowledge in hidden caves. She explained that for Mayans, this new era means that it is now time for them to emerge from their secret caves and begin sharing the wisdom teachings that they have so lovingly cherished and sustained all these years.
This memory instantly came to my mind when I first read the title for this exciting book. This title captures beautifully the spirit and intent of the message that the Elder shared on that day. If the Mayans, and other Indigenous peoples around the world who held similar visions, were indeed tapping into a mysterious wisdom understanding of an important shift in the energy circulating in the world, then we would be wise to carefully attend to the lessons on life and living being passed on to us. For me, the key insight that flows from this vision is that a new era has begun during which Indigenous peoples around the world must emerge from own ‘caves’ and begin sharing their ancestral wisdom teachings that have survived the many years of colonial oppression. We must begin to interrogate the ways and means by which we have been carefully trained to disregard wisdom teachings and insights from earlier eras and accept without question the assertion that human beings really only began to live good lives in the past few centuries. It is this faith in the cultural mythology of a techno-scientific version of Progress that blinds us to the truth that we are enmeshed in a whole series of relationships – human and more-than-human – that we are fully dependent upon for our survival. The most urgent challenge facing human beings today is to remember sacred ecological wisdom teachings regarding how to live in ways that honour those relationships and sustain them so that our extended more-than-human relations can also continue to live.
So, for me, Looking Back and Living Forward: Indigenous Research Rising Up is a beautiful compilation of chapters that address these challenges in unique and inspiring ways. As the many contributing authors exemplify through their textual offerings, the possibility of a Rising Up arises from a (re)newed commitment to an ethic of wisdom relationality. It is this form of ethical relationality that will help heal us from the violent divisiveness of colonial logics and inspire us to (re)imagine ourselves as human beings. As such, this book is healing medicine.
Faculty of Education
University of Alberta