Two-eyed seeing conference: Indigenous knowledge in modern practice

MEMBERTOU — The upcoming Muiwatmnej Etuaptmumk Conference aims to bring together diverse perspectives under the theme of two-eyed seeing, or Etuaptmumk in the Mi'kmaw language.

This event, hosted by the Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative (CEPI), integrates Indigenous knowledge and modern science. It's scheduled for Nov. 13-15 at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

Annie Johnson of Eskasoni First Nation is the conference chair and director of administration at the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR). She says the idea is for attendants to see the success of applying the concept of two-eyed seeing in business, education and more.

"The whole point of this is we want to celebrate two-eyed seeing and showcase it as something that all people can use in life. It's not just an Indigenous concept," said Johnson. "Everybody can use two-eyed seeing and utilize its methodologies in their workplaces, classrooms and health centers. That's what we're trying to do here: showcase all the great work happening."

With a schedule that includes expert panels, cultural excursions and a gala night, the conference aims to provide an understanding of two-eyed seeing. Mi'kmaw elder Albert Marshall of Eskasoni first coined Etuaptmumk as a concept. Johnson says the idea is a balancing of modern and traditional knowledge.


"Two-eyed seeing is you see through one eye using the lens of traditional knowledge, the Indigenous knowledge, and then through the other eye, you're also taking into account western science," Johnson said. "Using those together for the best results for whatever you're working on, your project or counselling method, or anything."

Cultural excursions are integral to the conference experience; Johnson says excursions available to visitors will include examples of two-eyed seeing in practice, trips to the Eltuek Arts Centre, the Fortress of Louisbourg, and demonstrations by Terry Denny and his sons on traditional methods and land-based learning.

"We wanted people to have a hands-on look at what two-eyed seeing is like in action," said Johnson. "I think people will get a good sense of some of the things happening here in Cape Breton."

Johnson says the conference will also honour individuals who have effectively applied this ideology.

"We have one of our Mi'kmaw elders, Joe Googoo. He is single-handedly helping to bring back the oyster populations using traditional knowledge with modern ideas from western science," Johnson said. "This guy is a legend but so humble. He works with CBU and Dalhousie and academics from all over come to study what he's doing."


The conference will also have entertainment featuring performances from Jeremy Dutcher and Mi'kmaw dancer Sarah Prosper during the opening reception and an awards gala on Tuesday night. Johnson says she's enthusiastic about the response the conference has elicited.

"I'm so glad to see such an overwhelming response to registration and interest from speakers and people who want to attend," she said.

The Muiwatmnej Etuaptmumk Conference is an opportunity for cultural learning, outlook expansion and applying a two-eyed seeing perspective in various aspects of life. Johnson says her goal for the conference is educational and practical.

"My goal has always been about having people come to the conference and come away with almost a cheat sheet for two-eyed seeing. For people to leave with a sense of, 'Hey, this is something I can do in my community,'" Johnson said.

"Don't be afraid to experience it. I always say we are all treaty people and we can all use two-eyed seeing, too."

Mitchell Ferguson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post