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Indigenous Knowledge Comes to Colegio Americano

By Siri Berman
Indigenous Knowledge Comes to Colegio Americano

On October 2, 2014, the Theory of Knowledge Department at Colegio Americano of Quito hosted its first ever Indigenous Knowledge Systems workshop. It consisted of a four-hour, in-school retreat, featuring guest speakers, music, and critical thought on one of the IB’s newest additions to the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course: Indigenous Knowledge Systems as an Area of Knowledge.
TOK Area Head Siri Berman, and teachers Greg Webster and David Noftsger, organized the event as a way to immerse their senior students in a new topic, even though they, themselves, had very little personal knowledge about indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing in Ecuador.
Instead of basing their unit on information from books and online journals (very popular means of gathering knowledge by “western” knowledge standards), the teachers reached out to their friends and colleagues throughout Ecuador. Through social networking they were able to contact and organize visits by three experienced and qualified speakers.
Yacuruna Yachak is a musician and cultural educator from the Paushiyacu community in Napo, Ecuador who now teaches Kichwa and works with volunteers in the Jatunyacu community. Wain Collen is a South African by birth who now lives in Ecuador, and is the creator and director of PlanJunto, an organization whose mission is to help local Amazonian communities drive sustainable forest management in effective cooperation with their national and international allies. Enrique Tasiguano is an applied anthropologist and Kichwa professor who has worked with indigenous communities, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education, provincial councils, and U.S. and Canadian universities.
Yacu focused on the role of folklore, rituals, and songs in indigenous knowledge systems. During his talk, the students were able to truly sense the ephemeral, yet timeless nature of knowledge transmitted orally. Yacu described how he felt when his father died, and how “all [his father’s] knowledge died with him.”
Although stories and experiences live on through family and friends, Yacu likened the oral transmission of indigenous knowledge to a game of “telephone” or “operator,” where each time the story is retold some details can change slightly.
Wain addressed the knowledge question “What is the value and relevance of indigenous knowledge on issues of societal concern?” He facilitated a presentation that allowed students to compare and contrast indigenous and western knowledge systems, and recognize the inherent challenges in trying to combine different systems of knowledge in problem solving at the local and global level.
Enrique finished the workshop with a flurry of traditional herbs, brightly colored ponchos, and a detailed calendar based on nature, energy, agriculture, myth, and creation. The students shared the smells and knowledge associated with herbs such as paico, ortiga, and matico, and were introduced to the traditional calendar of planting and celebrations.
Overall, the workshop was a success, and the students were able to jump headfirst into a new topic and analyze knowledge through the lens of indigenous people in Ecuador.
Siri Berman is Theory of Knowledge Area Head at the CAQ.

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04/22/2018 - Yacu
Thank you the invited me...i like to talk about our culture from Ecuador and the Indiginous from Amazon. Ashka pagrachu.fue una hermosa experiencia de haber podido transmitir un buen mensaje sobre nuestra riqueza cultural y felicito que hayan esos espacios para seguir manteniendo el conocimiento cultural
01/08/2015 - Jo
This article is so refreshing, especially where it refers to recognition of the inherent challenges involved when attempting to combine different knowledge systems to try to resolve problems at local, national and global levels. This form of Sociological/ Social Anthropological enrichment is vital in our education today. As International Schools we should be increasing our students' awareness of the whole ethos of their host cultures to become more empathetic and open to different viewpoints whilst trying to discover important
common areas for interaction and exchange of ideas and skills.



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