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Reconciling indigenous knowledge with academia


9 June 2005

Reconciling indigenous knowledge with academic priorities

The tension between indigenous peoples keen to preserve their traditional knowledge and the rigours and demands of academia is to be explored in a major conference to be held at Victoria University later this month in June.

Indigenous Knowledges: Reconciling Academic Priorities with Indigenous Realities will be held at Victoria University’s Pipitea Campus from 22–25 June. The conference, which is being organised by He Parekereke, in the University’s School of Educational Studies, and is supported by Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (the National Institute of Research Excellence in Maori Development & Advancement).

Senior Lecturer Dr Joanna Kidman (Te Arawa, Te Aupouri), Co-Director of He Parekereke, says indigenous peoples face significant challenges in the 21st Century.

“In the face of globalisation, indigenous peoples are facing rapid social, political, environmental and economic change that is challenging cultural identities and traditions. New research methods and academic practices have begun to evolve within indigenous communities, which in turn present new questions and challenges for conventional academic scholarship and practice."

Dr Kidman says the conference aims to promote discussion and interaction between academics and indigenous communities in different disciplines and different nations.

“The conference will draw indigenous peoples from around the world to discuss matters of academic scholarship and its importance to the everyday lives of indigenous people. There is a strong, positive focus on the future and to that end we also organising a symposium to showcase the best research talent from young and emerging Maori researchers across New Zealand."

Indigenous communities from North America, the Pacific, Australia, Africa, Northern Europe and Asia as well New Zealand Maori will be addressing the conference. Disciplines attracted to the conference include those studying geographic information systems, education, health, development, arts and literature, science and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The key note speakers are:

Professor Leroy Little Bear, Native American Studies Professor at the University of Lethbridge, who is a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Canada. Professor Little Bear has authored numerous articles, including ‘A concept of Native Title' which was cited in a Canadian Supreme Court decision, and co-authored several books including Pathways to Self-Determination. His current research interests include the exploration of North American Indian science and Western physics, and the exploration of Blackfoot knowledge through songs, stories, and the landscape.

Professor John Mohawk, of the Iroquois Confederacy, is an author and Professor in the Center for the Americas at the State University at Buffalo, New York. He is the Founder and Director of the Iroquois White Corn Project and the Pinewoods Cafe. These projects promote and sell Iroquois white corn products and foods to revitalise indigenous agriculture, reintroduce the traditional Iroquois diet, and support contemporary indigenous farmers. Professor Mohawk has a long history as a writer and editor, and has received the Native American Journalism Association Best Historical Perspective of Indigenous People Award (2000 & 2001).

Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngati Awa, Ngati Porou) is Co-Director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga and Professor of Education at the University of Auckland. Formerly the Director of the International Research Institute for Maori and Indigenous Education, her research interests are in the broad field of Maori education, research methodologies and youth research.

More information on the programme can be found at:


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