Knowledge Waiting to be Discovered: Leroy Little Bear speaks on Blackfoot Metaphysics

June 2, 2016
Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger

Questioning our very way of thinking, long-time First Nations education advocate and scholar Leroy Little Bear delivered a mind-blowing Big Thinking lecture to a packed house at Congress 2016 this afternoon with wisdom, wit, and extraordinary knowledge. Little Bear explained his view of the limits of Western metaphysics. Metaphysics are those things that are so embodied within an individual that they form the foundational and often unconscious basis of one’s thoughts and behaviour, as well as the organization of society.

Little Bear stated thatWestern metaphysics has been largely shaped by the Enlightenment period of European history.  Western ways of thought are primarily driven by rationalism: everything is about matter; we look at things in isolation; and, we are future-oriented. It rejects arriving at truths through faith, reliance on the past, or intuition, and rejects anything to do with mysticism or spirits. The ramifications of such thinking is that it creates left-brain thinkers, focused solely on processes and predictability as opposed to using the right side of the brain to understand and question different phenomena.

Blackfoot metaphysics, in contrast, emphasizes the constant flux of everything, and places importance on all of one’s relations--too absolutely everything (think of an ecological network). It calls for constant renewal for continuing existence. Little Bear explained that humans live only in a very narrow spectrum of ideal conditions. Blackfoot metaphysics focuses on sustainability, emphasizing the need to maintain the factors that make for our existence. He questioned the Western need to change and challenge the work of nature instead of simply letting it be.

Little Bear explained that Canada is in a midlife crisis, which is a grand opportunity to question who we are as Canadians and where we are headed as a nation. He concluded with strong words worthy of further reflection, “Blackfoot metaphysics is waiting in the wings. That is what we need to discover”