A “two-eyed seeing” approach can support Indigenous self-determination and wholistic health

Riley, K. ., Chow, A. F., Wahpepah, K. ., Humbert, M. L., Brussoni, M. ., Houser, N. ., & Erlandson, M. C. (2023). Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing) in Nature’s Way-Our Way: Braiding physical literacy and risky play through Indigenous games, activities, cultural connections, and traditional teachings. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/11771801231167881

Physical literacy and risky play – major contributors to the quality of movement – have generally been studied and promoted from a western worldview. This approach can limit the opportunities for growth in Indigenous children. This concern prompted the development of Nature’s Way-Our Way, an initiative using Etuaptmumk as a guiding principle. Etuaptmumk, a word from the Mi’kmaw language, refers to “Two-Eyed Seeing that learns to see from one eye the strengths of Indigenous Knowledges, and from the other eye the strengths of western knowledge”.

Nature’s Way-Our Way was developed under the leadership of community-based Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in Saskatchewan, Canada. Métis and settler individuals, along with academic researchers and other First Nations individuals, also served as members of the research team. Their goal in developing Nature’s Way-Our Way was to “braid together the strengths of Indigenous Knowledges with western knowledge through practices of Indigenous métissage (land and story-based approaches to curriculum informed by relationality).”

The team worked together to co-create 10 physical literacy-enriched resources using Indigenous games and activities, with an accompanying Indigenous story, to enhance, implement, and evaluate physical literacy and land-based learning resources in nine Indigenous and non-Indigenous early childhood education centers in Saskatchewan, Canada. A crucial finding emerging during the early stage of the project focused on the importance of relationships within the Nature’s Way-Our Way network of collaborators. These relationships include social relationships with people and material relationships with land and place. A focus on relationships “reemphasizes the role of processes and journeys in achieving outcomes through adaptive, flexible, and relationally malleable ways.”

The approach used by Nature’s Way-Our Way is invested in anticolonialism in that it supports Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty while also fostering increased physical activity, wholistic health, and wellness across the lifespan. This approach also recognizes that “both Indigenous Knowledges and western knowledge are distinct and whole in and of themselves but uses them together for the benefit of all.”

Research Partner