The Native American Academy

Explorations Into Native Science

A Journey into the
Spirit and Nature of Science


"Science has been and can be defined many different ways depending on who is doing the defining. But one thing that is certain is that "science" is culturally relative. In other words, what is considered science is dependent on the culture/worldview/paradigm of the definer."
Leroy Little Bear, J.D., Ph.D
Foreword to Native Science, Natural Laws of Interdependence

The seriousness of environmental issues, a language bridge provided by the quantum world and the existence of a generation of Indigenous scholars has fueled the confluence of native and western epistemologies and revealed an emerging vision of a 21st century scientific paradigm. A superb science that embraces cognitive pluralism nourished by an ongoing dialogue between Western science; young, immediate, vital, adventurous, vibrant, passionate and committed in its exploration of fragments and dualities. Native science; in relationship with an animate universe, observing from within the processes of creation as an acknowledged participant, following the collaborative spiral that circles from observation to information, to knowledge, its approaches and methodologies matured over centuries have had the time needed for knowledge to fully develop into wisdom, inclusive and interrelated, informed through layers of relationship.

What is revealed is a science of the whole, a science of inter- relationship and logic, interdependence and rationality, of deep capacities to sense and know, of reason, rigor, plurality and collaboration. 21st Century Science. Science that draws from, shares and communicates with and recognizes itself as part of the communities, species and elements that create life. A science with multiple perceptions of time, of technology as art and craft and of the manner in which knowledge moves through and arises from the natural order.

Different ways of knowing exist in the world. In this new century it is necessary for them to be embraced co-equally. Western and Native ways of knowing are envisioned here as an infinity symbol, showing the two processes maintaining their inherent integrity while interpenetrating, providing nourishment, creativity
and possibilities. An interrelationship that cannot help but enrich the scientific endeavor through the exploration of different ways of knowing.

Native Science § Western Science

This opening of a portal into the Indigenous understandings of the whole, the emergence of the Native paradigm and the body of knowledge held by Indigenous peoples signals the potential for the birth of another paradigmatic shift. An enrichment in the study and appreciation of what "to know" or what "science" means.

Further Exploration of Native Science

Broad Objectives of the Explorations into Science Project


Native American Academy Home

Silver Buffalo Home





“Traditional and local
knowledge systems, as
dynamic expressions of
perceiving and understanding
the world, can make and
historically have made, a
valuable contribution
to science and technology.”

”There is a need to preserve,
protect, research and promote
this cultural heritage and
empirical knowledge”

A Declaration of global
made by
World Conference on Science
for the
Twenty First Century:

A New Commitment

under the authority of

the United Nations Education
Scientific and Cultural



Is Native Science Science?

When encountering the expression "Native Science" it is quite natural to ask, "In what sense can the traditional knowledge systems of indigenous peoples be understood as science?" Western science is couched in terms of mathematical and mechanistic theories, and possesses a well-developed hypothetical, deductive and experimental methodology.

Indigenous knowledge systems incorporate many but not all of these elements, and they are embedded in a larger social and human context. Therefore, interpreting "science" in the narrowest sense can render traditional knowledge systems "non-science."

We believe this is shortsighted. Despite the remarkable accomplishments and benefits of science and technology over the last 500 years, it would be arrogant in the extreme to regard this period as the start of all science. Humans possessing equivalent cognitive, emotional and spiritual capacities have lived in stable human communities for many thousands of years. Moreover, many of these societies have come to value observation and the understanding of nature, combined with societal arrangements for holding, developing, and applying knowledge gained thereby for common benefit.

Given that the advances of Western Science have at times also had unforeseen and significant negative consequences on the Earth and human society, it is timely to broaden the concept of science so as to include other systems of knowledge that may be more attuned to complex interdependencies between human innovation and the social and natural environment.

Productive collaborations exist between Western and Native scientists in environmental research, land use, geographic information science, and hydrology. For example, ethnobotanist and MacArthur fellow Gary Nabhan's project "Native Seed Search" was conducted in collaboration with traditional knowledge holders.