Most everyone can agree that academia should make room for "indigenous knowledge" in a trendy or fad-like sense. In the same way in which everyone might want to connect something about climate change to their work to be aligned with prevailing intellectual currents, we find something similar in talking about recovering or promoting indigenous knowledge in a modern context. But while there may be much agreement about indigenous knowledge in an abstract sense, as more of a series of exotic anecdotes or native trivia to supplement the real source of truth and knowledge, a more traditional Western academic core, going beyond this will usually create problems.
At UOG for example we've tried to regularly offer weaving courses, and a handful of other "culture" courses, where students can experience in a more hands-on way, certain parts of Chamoru culture. The offering of these courses can often be a pain however, as faculty and administrators constantly have to be put at ease that offering a class which foregrounds and privileges indigenous ways of knowing doesn't mean the end of the world. It doesn't mean the end of educational possibility.
It is so laughable when this moments inevitably arrive each semester. In the ways in which scholars seem overcome with anxiety that a class is being offered which doesn't revolve around writing a paper following some ridiculous citational system, in order to proper up a variety of Western forms of knowledge and power dynamics. It is a reminder that the establishment of any system, whether it be of governance, relations or knowledge, necessarily requires expulsions, displacements. Something or a set of somethings have to be expelled for the system to emanate cohesion and order.
Indigenous possibility and viability is one of those very things that was expelled to make the modern modern. The make the modern work, to make it capable of carrying meaning. When the indigenous push goes too far, you can see people react in this way, as if the return of some long banished zombie, bearing the virus of a new epistemological order is at hand.
This is one my mind, as for several years I have been working with a Chamoru teacher, Jose Babauta, on developing a standardized weaving curriculum and textbook for the Guam public school system. This past semester we were analyzing different curricula that are being used in Asia, the Pacific, North and South America, which are indigenous focused. One of the models we are using is based around weaving within the Navajo tribes, which was piloted in the 1990s. An article about it is below.
by The Associated Press
July 11, 1994