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Igniting the fire of our ancestors’ ways of knowing

Indigenous land in Treaty 6 territory,  ᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ amiskwacîwâskahikan (Beaver Hills House), is a traditional meeting ground, gathering place, and travelling route of the nêhiyawak (Cree), Anishinaabe (Saulteaux), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, Dene, and Nakota Sioux.


The relationship between knowledge and governance and collective self-determination is a fundamental right described as collective self-determination by Kyle Whyte, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

I understand Indigenous governance according to two related conceptual constellations: resurgence and collective continuance, both of which are expressions of collective self-determination. Collective self-determination refers to a group’s ability to provide the cultural, social, economic, and political relations needed for its members to pursue good lives. In my understanding, resurgence involves thinking about collective self-determination while grasping the full impact of systems (or structures) of settler colonialism on Indigenous lives today and into the future. (Whyte, 2017)


A study of Australia, Canada and Brazil concludes that “Indigenous-managed lands represent an important repository of native vertebrate species richness in three of the six largest countries on earth” (Schuster, 2019, p. 4) and urges nation-to-nation partnerships as a way forward. Placed in the context of environmental policy, Rebecca Tsosie, of Yaqui descent, refers to this as traditional ecological knowledge.

It is perhaps more useful to speak of the category of “traditional ecological knowledge.” Indigenous peoples are unique because they have a longstanding and intergenerational presence upon their traditional territories, and this “ethics of place” is deeply embedded within their cultures and social organisation. For most indigenous peoples, sustainability is the result of conscious and intentional strategies designed to secure a balance between human beings and the natural world and to preserve the balance for the benefit of future generations. (Tsosie, 2018)


Contemporary global urbanisation also deeply affects Indigenous communities, reinforcing the inclination for people to move off the land to urban environments and away from traditional ways. Jessica Bolduc, Anishinaabe-French from the Batchewana First Nation, refers to this generation as edgewalkers.

Edgewalkers are a new generation of Aboriginal leaders who have no patience for the status quo, who are deeply interested in the potential of the future and who have a hunger to contribute to a better world. We’ve learned from the past and are using our Indigenous worldviews and understanding of modern systems to shape future possibilities that value the well-being of all. (The Walrus, 2015, 00:25)


An ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy, The Seventh Generation Principle, considers seven generations into the future and guides decision-making for energy, water, and natural resources. Foremost, there is an understanding that we are all related and communicate through stories that seek to heal self and systems. Melanie Goodchild, Anishinaabe/Ojibway, expresses relational systems thinking as a dynamic interface theoretical model.

… relational systems thinking is an Indigenous standpoint, in which the relationships between everything are the most important elements of the work that you’re doing. … So when we would take on a design project, for example, if I were a designer, I would think about the medicines that would be necessary because when we’re doing our type of complexity and system scholarship, it’s about healing self and systems. So it’s not as much transformation of systems as it is healing those systems. And so that happens in a place of relationship with all of the elements—if we want to call it a system. (Soriano et al, 2022, 39:59)

A brighter future for both systems thinking and pragmatism

By explicitly embracing pragmatism, and taking it forward through critical systems thinking and practice, systems thinking can realize the hopes of the original pioneers and chart a bright future for itself. A shared philosophical orientation will bring greater mutual understanding between the currently disparate strands of the systems movement and more unity of purpose.

—Michael Jackson (2023) | RSD12 Keynote


  1. Soriano, A., Vink, J., & Prakash, S. (with Agid, S., Ahmed Ansari, Melanie Goodchild, & van Amstel, F.) (2022). Confronting Legacies of Oppression in Systemic Design: [Video file]. Proceedings of Systems Thinking and Design, RSD11. Article 012.
  2. The Walrus (2015, April 23). Edgewalkers | Jessica Bolduc | Walrus Talks. [Video file]. Retrieved from
  3. Tsosie, R. (2018). In Nelson, M.K. & Shilling, D (Eds.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability (p. 235). Cambridge University Press.
  4. Whyte, K. (2017). What Do Indigenous Knowledges Do for Indigenous Peoples? SSRN
Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre

Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre believes in preserving and revitalizing First Nation Peoples’ languages, cultures, and identities by providing a centralized venue for education and First Nation tradition to come together. Under the direction of the Treaty Chiefs in Alberta, IKWC is a long-term sustainable initiative delivering a legacy of knowledge and lifelong learning to educate First Nation students. IKWC provides a culturally appropriate and responsive educational environment for First Nation students seeking a deeper connection to culture and lifelong learning.


Shaunte Fryingpan, Research/Resource Developer,

kihcihkaw-âski sacred land

The Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre and the City of Edmonton partnered to designate the first urban Indigenous cultural and ceremonial grounds in Canada—kihcihkaw askî, which in the Cree language means sacred land. An elder counsel oversees this joint initiative, which was undertaken in the spirit of peace, friendship, and respect.


We envision a welcoming space for the general public, while honoring the vision of the Elders to hold a sacred space for diverse Indigenous cultures to practice ceremonies and transfer knowledge. We will preserve a natural space within the city of Edmonton for present and future generations to heal, learn, and connect, one where the positive movement towards reconciliation will be led by Indigenous knowledge and worldviews.

Talks: Materialities

Talks: Materialities

Chiara Battistoni | Bilge Aktaş | Simin Tao and Qi Zhang | Lalon Lalon and Gayarti Menon | Siv Årsand, Maja van der Velden, and Andrea Gasparini | Stephen Wood, Jeanette Andrews, Miso Kim, Estefania Cilliotta Chehade, Michael Arnold Mages, Linda Tvrdy, and Paolo Ciuccarelli


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