I often find myself sharing an idea or opinion and then wondering, genuinely, “Where did that come from?” I’ll search through my life, what I’ve learned along the way, and try to tease out connections to the original source. Sometimes, I get the feeling that it’s not lived experience, that the source can’t be traced from my personal past. That “unlived” experience seems to come to me most at the times when the people around me most need it.
Indigenous knowledge is intergenerational. I don’t know how it’s passed on (through our cellular makeup?) or where it comes from originally (the source could be infinite). But I’m developing a better understanding of why—so that we pass the knowledge and learning to others.
Our knowledge is a gift and a great responsibility, one that I now take incredibly seriously. In recent years I’ve had the chance to spend time with my people, learning more about what matters and what makes me who I am. Looking back, I realize that a lot of what I’ve written and said can be traced to indigenous knowledge. When the realization first hit, I thought I’d let my people down—that I’d shared with no right to, or somehow wrongly or clumsily, or worse still in a way that gave others opportunity to take it and twist it and claim it as theirs. I understand now it was part of my journey, a journey to discovering the power of knowledge, where it comes from, and the importance of using it well—to do good, not for ourselves, but for others.
Whatever we do and wherever we’re going, indigenous knowledge can show us the way. It’s carving the path to a better education system, one where the norm is Contributive Learning—teaching and learning to add to the world.
We’re all welcome to learn from indigenous wisdom. It will make all our lives and the world all the brighter. No matter the context, reflect on your knowledge. Ask, “Where did that come from?”—then acknowledge the source.