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Indigenous Peoples and Western Civilization

In Decolonizing Methodologies, Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) discusses the notion of ‘Trading the Other,’ as it relates to indigenous populations and Western Civilization. She explains that when ‘Trading the Other’ the dominant group trades nothing with the less dominant group (marginalized) in exchange for their knowledge, culture, materials, and spiritual perspectives to fuel their commercial enterprises. Smith recognizes the fact that trade occurs typically between two parties who exchange things of value, but when ‘Trading the Other’ only the dominant party of the two benefits, leaving the non-dominant group further oppressed with without control over sacred cultural practices. Smith (1990) writes, “ ‘Trading the Other’ is a vast industry based on the positional superiority and advantages gained under imperialism” (p. 89).

Smith (1999) suggests that research and scholars have traditionally favored imperialistic ways of knowing developed primarily by Westerners. In other words, those in power, those who have colonized and marginalized other groups of people, have privileged their Ways of Knowing and constructing knowledge. Privileging the dominant group's ways of knowing promotes a lack of consideration as it relates to marginalized groups’ ways of knowing and constructing knowledge. Smith (1999) posits that proving the validity of indigenous knowledge, including “that indigenous peoples have ways of viewing the world which is unique,” is not the only challenge indigenous populations face, but also proving the authenticity and control over those forms of knowledge (p. 104).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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