Environment | Health | Opinion

Ruth Hopkins: Indigenous science emphasizes our connectedness






A blue-eyed darner dragonfly. Photo by Mike Baird

Writer Ruth Hopkins, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, shares indigenous science from the Oceti Sakowin:
Unlike western science, Indigenous science is centered on relatedness; the connectedness of all things- and the spirit world is accepted as fact. As a result, some Indigenous scientific knowledge is hidden within spiritual beliefs and ceremony.

Among the Oceti Sakowin (Dakota/Lakota/Nakota), some sentinel organisms that predict environmental health are not called indicator species; rather, they are referred to as being associated with wowakan, sacred energy.

Dragonflies (order Odonata, suborder Anisoptera) are welcomed at summer ceremonies. They signify the presence of wowakan, and ancestral spirits.

Biologists know that dragonflies are an indicator of a healthy biophysical environment. The presence of dragonflies signify good water quality, because they require it to thrive. They are also a strong indicator of biodiversity and robust aquatic environments.

Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) song is considered a sign of sacred energy at Sundance ceremonies. Biologists have named the western meadowlark as an indicator species for prairies and grasslands. Their population fitness indicates the health of other species, and therefore, translates to biodiversity. Their presence also reveals good water quality.

Read More:
Ruth Hopkins: Indigenous Biology (Indian Country Today 12/17)