British Columbia

'Indigeneer' combines scientific methods and traditional Indigenous knowledge

Deanna Burgart describes herself as an “Indigeneer,” combining her Indigenous background with her engineering career, and hopes to see more collaboration between the two realms.

Conference held in Prince George explores collaboration of two realms of knowledge

Deanna Burgart combines her Indigenous background with her engineering career. (Deanna Burgart/Twitter)

Deanna Burgart describes herself as an "Indigeneer," who combines her Indigenous background with her engineering career and hopes to see more collaboration between the two realms.

Burgart, who teaches post-secondary courses about oil, gas and pipelines in Calgary, tries to bring the two sides together in one conversation.

"We need to have those conversations," she said. "There is a huge gap in understanding on all sides."

Burgart is in B.C. this week to speak at a conference in Prince George that focuses on the ways in which traditional Indigenous knowledge and contemporary science are starting to collaborate.

"When I got to industry conferences, the conversation that is happening is very different from that when I got to Indigenous business conferences, and I wish that those conversations were held together," she said.

Science, oral tradition

When human footprints on British Columbia's Calvert Island were confirmed to be the oldest in North America at 13,000 years old this year, it came as no surprise to members of the Heiltsuk First Nation.

The First Nation, who aided researchers in the discovery, have long held that their people have been in the area since time immemorial.

"All too often, Western science will make a so-called discovery after years of research really confirming what elders have been telling us for decades, for 10s of thousands of years in some cases," said Tracy Calogheros, CEO of the Exploration Place Museum.

The museum is hosting the national conference this week, which explores the theme of "Hulh'uts'ut'en," a Lheidli T'enneh word that means "working together."

"The idea of bringing traditional ways of knowing together with empirical data and science is important," Calogheros told Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North.

"Both fields have things to learn from each other."

The Hodul’eh-a: A Place of Learning exhibit at Exploration Place Museum. The organization has been collaborating with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation since last year.

And museums, along with other learning centres, are at the forefront of changing those perspectives, Calogheros emphasized.

Exploration Place has been collaborating with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation for nearly a year and received a Governor General award for historic partnership in November.

"Reconciliation is long process and we are playing the long game here," she said. 

The conference with the Canadian Association of Science Centres runs May 9-11.

With files from Daybreak North and Andrew Kurjata