Expanding Knowledge through Dreaming, Wampum and Visual Arts

An Excerpt

Indigenous people have demonstrated a way of knowing and
relating that must be regained and adapted to a contemporary
setting —
not only for the benefits of those cultures themselves,
but for all human kind. Learning and becoming whole are, at
every level of expression, intimately intertwined. (Cajete 1994)

To validate dreaming as a research tool, we must remember that dreaming is where we symbolically process, synthesize and resolve the information, questions and experiences that we have had each day, with the understanding we have accrued so far, to produce understanding “new-to-us.” Some dreams, which we may call visions or gifts, are especially helpful in answering our questions, guiding our actions, or making sense of the world. Below are a few observations about the roles dreaming and painting have played in my research process, in the provision and development of a research model that is meaningful, relevant and useful for doing research as an Indigenous researcher and with Indigenous people. Dreams have always played an important part in my life — providing information or bringing resolution — but until recently I kept the knowledge I’d obtained from them out of my academic life. When I think about it, dreaming is a normal aspect of being, a way of knowing that all humans possess, but which has been eclipsed by other, more dominant, ways of knowing (e.g., medical science). If it can’t be touched, it’s not real. Why should physical evidence as foundation for research be validated more than non-physical evidence? Isn’t it generally true that our psyches can’t tell the difference between what we see when awake and what we see when dreaming? Isn’t it also true that we respond emotionally, mentally, spiritually and even physically to dreams in the same ways as we do waking experiences?

I’ve had all kinds of dreams, some ordinary and some with deep significance. Some made instant sense and others have required years of experiences and teachings to make sense. Time is different in dreams, where we can spend many years in a dream-world, while only hours pass in this waking world. Sometimes dreams are reenactments of our waking lives and sometimes they are prophetic. Sometimes dreams guide us about what we should do, teach us things we need to know, or let us know that things are as they should be. My dreams used to trick me; thinking I’d woken from one dream, I’d realize I was in another, again and again, until I questioned reality. In hindsight, this was good training and preparation for a conscious, critically questioning adult and academic life.

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