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Blog At the Museum

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to celebrate the original stewards of the land we all share.

Indigenous, or Native, peoples have lived in North America for thousands of years, hunting, gathering, farming, trading, stewarding the land— and of course: doing science!

All humans are hardwired to use what we call “science” as a tool for understanding the world. Curiosity, ingenuity, and an experimental mindset are universally human— though many different humans living all around the world have different ways of living, knowing, and doing science.

Indigenous Science is informed by generations of Indigenous peoples’ direct experience with a specific environment by observing, experimenting, and recording data about the land. Indigenous peoples share the knowledge and practices from thousands of years’ worth of research through cultural traditions and values.

Indigenous science is a way of looking at the world as a whole, made of connected parts that cannot be separated. It is also a code of ethics and responsibilities. Every part of an ecosystem exists in a mutual relationship with everything else. As a part of our ecosystems, we have a role to play in keeping our world in balance.

We must remember, today and every day, that Western colonization, which violently interrupted Indigenous civilizations around the world, operates under a worldview of human superiority over nature. This same worldview that values the extraction of natural resources without regard for the environment is also the driving force behind anthropogenic climate change.

We cannot separate the painful legacy of genocide, slavery, systemic racism– and the Western scientific tradition that enabled them– from our current climate crisis.

Both Indigenous Science and Western science are critical to understanding and adapting to climate change. As we look toward the future together, we must embrace diverse ways of knowing and honor those who continue to hold, share, and practice them. Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day is one way to start!

The Museum of Life and Science is located in what is now called the city of Durham, North Carolina.

We would like to acknowledge that we are on the land of the Eno, Tutelo, Saponi, Occaneechi, Shakori Native people.

Léwa Eno, Tutelo, Saponi, Occaneechi, Shakori eyātile amā agíneókehléi yoñspépua wahiyébise.

Many thanks to our friends from the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, especially Tribal Administrator Vickie Jeffries, who translated this land acknowledgment statement into Tutelo-Saponi, the traditional language of the Occaneechi.

We hope you will try out our Learning the Land activity as part of your Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration!