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Four Feathers Writing Guide

Learn more about traditional Coast Salish teachings and approaches to learning that can support your development as an academic writer.

Gather Information: Learn More from Others

Great Blue Heron catching a fish“Gather information, bring it together and combine it with your knowledge so that you can prepare to share” (Charles, 2018).

Heron/SṈE₭E (Great Blue Heron)

When you’re gathering information and research to learn from others, think of the great blue heron, a skilled hunter-gatherer that symbolizes many of the qualities that are necessary in the gathering of information and knowledge:

  • Blue herons represent an ability to progress and evolve.
  • Blue herons have the innate wisdom of being able to maneuver through life and co-create their own circumstances.
  • The blue heron symbolizes patience, grace, balance, elegance, and determination. (Indigenous Education Student Services, 2019)9

Teaching: “SṈE₭E” (“The Watchman”), Excerpt from Original Song by Chief HYA-QUATCHA Gordon Planes

The SENĆOŦEN text below is an excerpt of a song by Chief HYA-QUATCHA Gordon Planes (2019) that asks the great blue heron, who is a watchman for the T’Sou-ke Nation, to watch over T’Sou-ke Nation members:

HA – A – A – A – A
HA – A – A – A – A – A

HA – A – A – A – A – A
HALA – HA   HALA – HA   YAH – WHO – O – O – O – O – O – O

Gather Knowledge from Experts

The hunt for knowledge, which involves researchers using the most appropriate tool to gather specific types of information, is an essential part of getting ready to write about a topic. Seeking knowledge allows you to consult experts on your topic and learn more about the relationships between their teachings. In Indigenous societies, learning information means going to an expert to learn (Charles, 2018). For example, Elders teach about history, hunters teach about hunting, and fishermen teach about fishing (Charles, 2018). Other sources of Indigenous knowledge include:

  1. learning from observation of cyclical patterns in ecosystems and other natural law;
  2. learning from animals;
  3. spiritual knowledge acquired through ceremonies;
  4. learning through teachings in Indigenous stories and philosophies;
  5. trial and error;
  6. Indigenous empirical-like knowledge;
  7. Oral Traditions;
  8. learning from Elders’ interpretations and intuition;
  9. ancient ancestral knowledge;
  10. learning through Indigenous theories and methodologies;
  11. learning through unique aspects of the contemporary Indigenous condition. (Younging, 2018, p. 115)

Students have a similar opportunity to draw upon the wisdom of experts by consulting works created by scholars; students can also gather knowledge by doing primary research themselves.

If you’re researching Indigenous topics, you may use a combination of approaches to learn more about Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. The transmission of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge is both oral and relationship-based. If you are researching Indigenous topics, please be respectful in approaching communities to request access to Knowledge Holders. Prior to conducting research or gathering information, it is essential to gain the blessing of the community, usually through its Elders, and to respect and follow their rules surrounding relationships and knowledge transfer. Be aware of nation, community, and family laws and how each community approaches them before visiting a community (Charles, 2018).  Please also make sure to follow the necessary ethical guidelines to ensure your interactions with Indigenous Peoples and their communities are respectful and focus on collaboration and engagement (see Section B in "Gather Information: Resources" in this guide for examples).

Finally, remember that some teachings are sacred and not all traditional teachings should be shared outside the community. If you have been welcomed into a First Nations’ community, ask for permission from the appropriate individual to share knowledge versus assuming all knowledge is open to everyone. If you receive permission to include teachings in your work, please see How Should I Cite Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers? for a recommended approach to citing Traditional Knowledge.

9 The teachings and approaches to learning in this guide are shared with permission. The ownership of the Traditional Knowledge remains in perpetuity with the appropriate Nation; accordingly, the information should not be re-used without explicit permission.

10 The excerpt of this song is shared with permission from Chief HYA-QUATCHA Gordon Planes, Elected Chief of the T’Sou-ke Nation. The ownership of this Traditional Knowledge remains in perpetuity with Chief Planes and the T’Sou-ke Nation; accordingly, the information should not be re-used without explicit permission.

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