Between 1999 and 2011 I was blessed to organise annual dialogues between Native American elders and Western scientists. In one of the dialogues, the moderator, Leroy Little Bear, a Blackfoot elder, posed a seemingly innocent question: “Is it possible to come up with an original thought?”

It was then that a significant thing happened. The Western people in the room, with one or two exceptions, interpreted the query as a challenge to come up with something that had never been said or done before. The Indigenous people took the question entirely differently – as an invitation to reconnect with ...


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