Tabitha Robin

Epistemology refers to the frameworks, methods, tools, and assumptions by which knowledge is created.

Tabitha Robin is a mixed ancestry Swampy Cree and Métis researcher, educator, activist, and writer. She is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. She spends much of her time learning about traditional Cree food practices.

how do you know?

i was told by tipiskâw pîsim,
lit up across a blue-black sky
as though a beacon of my body,
the coming and going
of cycles
a sliver, a shimmer
then shining hard in the night
as my body refuses to sleep

the chickadee
with a playful
of winter happenings:
dee dee, dee dee, dee dee,
prompts me to forest
snowshoes in hand

the spruce buds also taught me
early that spring,
their tang on my tongue,
how to be well

and the frogs, those big flirts,
spring peepers
filling the morning with
their calls
to creation

the grandfathers offered their
balanced beauty
alert, at the edge of the water
bearing witness

my heartbeat
told me too
of fear, longing, and keyam
through the prairie grasses
under the giants in the forest
treading the deep blue waters

that this is the beginning of knowledge


Discussion Questions

  • This poem positions nature as teacher. What have you learned from nature? What has nature taught you?
  • From an Indigenous perspective, learning from nature requires being in relation with nature. What is your relationship to the land and waters? How can you work to form a stronger connection to land and waters?
  • In an Indigenous worldview, we understand ourselves to be part of nature, rather than separate from nature. Indeed, Cree scholar Priscilla Settee (2013) argues that “the treatment of Indigenous peoples is a metaphor for the treatment of Mother Earth” (p. 4). The consequences of climate change, contamination, and resource extraction are living realities for the lands of Turtle Island. Do these forces alter nature as teacher or do they alter the lessons of nature? What does this mean for Indigenous bodies?
  • This poem incorporates Cree words. Indigenous languages are critical to our survival because they are derived from the land and provide instructions for how to be in good relation to the land. What happens to Indigenous languages in the absence of land?
  • Imagine 50 years in the future. What do you think nature will look like then?
  • What does it mean to demonstrate responsibility towards the land?

Additional Resources

Gifts of the Land: A Guided Nature Walk with Robin Wall Kimmerer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxJUFGlPYn4

LaDuke, W. (2013). Why First Nations movement is our best chance for clean land and water. https://www.yesmagazine.org/democracy/2013/01/10/first-nations-movement-is-best-chance-for-clean-land-water

Martens, T. R. (2018). Responsibilities and reflections: Indigenous food, culture, and relationships. Canadian Food Studies/La Revue canadienne des études sur l’alimentation5(2), 9-12.

Simpson, L. B. (2014). Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society3(3).

Settee, P. (2013). Pimatisiwin: The good life, global Indigenous knowledge systems. JCharlton Publishing Ltd.

The Great Laws of Nature. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn1ym5r7pqg


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