Bras d’Or CEPI

The Bras d’Or CEPI (Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative) arose in 2003 in response to the First Nation Chiefs in Cape Breton requesting the development of an overall management plan for the Bras d’Or Lake and watershed lands, to addresses the key environmental issues of forestry, water, land use, invasive marine species, and declining fish stocks.

A fundamental part of CEPI’s process is the concept of ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, the practice of approaching from Indigenous and Western Scientific perspectives without privileging one over the other.

Indigenous Science emphasizes reciprocity and relationship, reverence and ritual, responsibility and respect (and apparently alliteration). The Western Scientific Method is about making and testing hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, and constructing explanatory and predictive models and theories.

A defining difference between the two world views is that Aboriginal peoples believe their ancestors were right on most things (hence an emphasis on tradition), whereas Westerners believe their ancestors were either mostly wrong or their ideas can always be improved upon (hence an emphasis on testing and falsifiability). But the point of ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ seems to be that practitioners themselves benefit by weaving the two perspectives together (a distinctly Indigenous concept) rather than that one perspective is improved by incorporating elements from the other (which would constitute a Eurocentric privileging of “progress” over tradition).

While there are obvious differences in the two belief systems — such as whether land and knowledge is held in trust for future generations or can be owned and exploited for personal gain — there are equally obvious points of consensus. Both knowledge systems start with observations of the natural world (pattern recognition) and are expressed in the stories we tell about our interactions with and within that world. (More on ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, including a presentation by Albert Marshall of the Eskasoni Mi’kmaq First Nation and Dr. Cheryl Bartlett of CBU)