Two-Eyed Seeing: Mathematics and Indigenous Traditions and Cultures

Tuesday, November 02, 2021



Veselin Jungic gave a keynote presentation at the 2021 Maple in Mathematics Education and Research conference. The title of their presentation was "Two-Eyed Seeing: Mathematics and Indigenous Traditions and Cultures."


Elder Albert Marshal of the Mi’kmaw Nation describes “two-eyed seeing” as the ability to see with the strength of Indigenous knowledge from one eye while seeing with the strength of Western knowledge from the other. This dual perspective can be applied to many aspects of life, including mathematics.

In this presentation, I will explore the concept of “two-eyed seeing” and the field of ethnomathematics, the study of the relationship between mathematics and culture first introduced by Brazilian educator and mathematician Ubiratan D'Ambrosio. I will address some of the dynamics between these two concepts and illustrate them with several examples. These examples will include a brief analysis of the geometry evident in a traditional Haida Nation hat, as well as the work of contemporary Salish artist Dylan Thomas.

In addition, I will discuss a project that used mathematical modeling of a traditional Tla’amin Nation stone fish trap to communicate cultural, engineering, environmental, and mathematical ideas. This project was a collaboration with the Tla’amin Nation and the Callysto Program, an online education tool that helps students in elementary and high school learn about and apply data science skills.



One of my colleagues in our marketing department saw your presentation yesterday. She does not have a math background, so she worried that she would not understand most of the conference talks. However, she told me that she found your talk extremely interesting. In fact, she said that she couldn’t stop thinking about the ideas for hours afterward and said it made her think about mathematics in a very different way from the way she did before.

To me, that is one sign of a great talk -- it makes you reconsider your assumptions and view things from a different perspective. Thank you again for your contribution!