Imagine seeing the world in two different ways at the same time—one vision of the past and one of the future. The term “Two-Eyed Seeing” is often used in research, health, and teachings within First Nations. The idea is to understand the strengths within two worldviews—Western science and Indigenous knowledge—and then bring them together to better navigate the modern world, maintain a positive sense of self, and build a foundation based in culture.
Brenda Daniels has worked with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) as the First Nation language program researcher/developer since February 2022. A big part of her job is to meet with Elders to hear their perspectives on the best way to learn and teach a First Nations language. With their knowledge and advice, Daniels develops a language program to produce conversational speakers. An inherited passion for learning and sharing knowledge helps Daniels carry on the ways of her ancestors. She loves working with First Nations languages and seeing the impact on students learning their history, culture, and mother tongue.
Seeing how language can impact students is amazing because our language is so beautiful … it’s a living spirit and a gift,” Daniels says. “Back in the day, traditions were shared through the language, and before colonialism, that was how the majority of First Nations people were taught…”
“…I think if we can bring the languages back, hopefully, make fluent speakers, we will build strong youth and strong children, because that’s who we are as Indigenous people.”– Brenda Daniels
Learning and acknowledging First Nations ways of knowing is important to understanding how the two worldviews contrast and how they can work together, which can then give learners better tools for looking at their own lives. Students learn about the differences between the two worldviews by comparing certain elements. For example, some are taught that the land is a resource to benefit from, rather than a relation that can teach.
“Being First Nations and understanding these perspectives means acknowledging and learning your traditional belief system. This has always been here, but because of colonialism, it can easily get lost,” Daniels says. “Our Elders spoke of the mino-bimaadiziwin, or the good life. First Nations’ Oral Histories and traditions can contribute to making a good way of life for all of us. With First Nation philosophies already in their minds, our students also have to learn the Western perspective, and utilize both to maintain a balance in life.”
For Daniels, Two-Eyed Seeing allows First Nations to honor traditional ways and adapt to the ever-changing world. When traditions and teachings are shared, it enables students to contribute their ideas and expand the conversation. First Nations people have always been adaptable and, in the past, have selected certain Western ways of doing things to integrate into their culture and communities so they could build a good life using the economy of the day.
Daniels believes that teaching Indigenous ways of knowing and being in a First Nations language shares a deep message because there are teachings within the language. Although learning a language can have challenges, she has seen students learn phrases and words quickly when hearing the language regularly. She believes storytelling and songs are a great way to start teaching traditions, language, and introducing these worldviews.