Ysleta Mission Catholic Church

El Paso, TX

Open Letter to Catholic/Scholastic Philosophy Professors

Re: Indigenous Philosophy

My name is Bruce Ferguson and I am both a Catholic and an Algonquin member of the Kitigan-zib Anishinabeg community (Maniwaki, QC).  I am also taking under-graduate philosophy and would like to talk to scholastic scholars about the idea of revisiting what scholastic philosophy may have to say both to the Indigenous individual and the notion of Indigenous Philosophy.

Recently, I sent an email to the majority of professors listed on Philosophy Departments of Canadian Universities listed with the Canadian Philosophical Association focused on the relative absence of Indigenous philosophy courses, programs and/or degrees.  While the overwhelming majority of professional professors of philosophy responded in favor, supportive and understanding of this absence, the overwhelming question had to do with finding texts that can be used to guide the non-native professor in thinking about how to deliver a course in Indigenous Philosophy.

Without completing the "analysis" on the responses a number of themes are becoming apparent to the researcher;

1.  That a lack of knowledge about and the fact that Indigenous philosophy or study was outside the expertise and field that the philosopher/researcher was engaged with; and felt they would not be able to offer in an academically honest way professional advice or guidance on either the nature of the absence of Indigenous philosophy nor how to 'bring it about".

2.  Given that the philosophy field itself has not completely settled upon its own "boundaries" as a discipline; the idea of finding a place for indigenous thought AS philosophy was addressed by a number of professors.  What is it?  What does it look like, what would distinguish Indigenous Philosophy; how can one do philosophy without a written archeological record or other written forms that may not have survived or a "philosophical traditions" that did not develop schools within the field?

3.  Professional philosophers, for the most part, were sensitive to participating in the teaching of  Indigenous philosophy because of political sensitivities articulated by indigenous peoples around traditional knowledge, constructed knowledge (who our people are supposed to be as opposed to who we are); however, the problem is that in being sensitive to these trends, the academic field is spinning its wheels in the snow, making an effort to talk about Indigenous philosophy without making any concrete or measurable steps to move the issue forward.

Atikokan Mission

Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre

The proposed conversation "circles' being proposed are not really in the sphere of theology or the current debates between the Vatican and SSPX, rather it is a focused on a shared history and legacy of scholastic philosophy that is shared generally by the Christian faith.

Scholastic philosophy, like ancient and indigenous thought developed outside the influence of, independent from, and not influenced by modern philosophy (1600-Enlightenment) and the emergence of science.

What are the types of questions posed by scholastics, how do they speak to the human condition, what is the nature of our existence, and how do the three (indigenous, ancient and scholastic traditions) attempt to answer those questions.

In addition, the conversation can be seen as an activity of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation process because true understanding of the "other" begins by understanding thought.  


It was recently pointed out to me that the Society of St. Pius X is still not connected officially with the Catholic Church.  There is much work being done and Pope Francis has opened some doors for coming together, but we are not there yet.  Out of respect for this process I moved the SSPX part of my Catholic page to the general heading of Christianity.  I don't want to offend the SSPX who have some problems with our church since Vatican II and I don't really pretend to understand all the details of this separation.  

However, the SSPX and their reliance (my assumption) on pre-Vatican II philosophy is the focus of my interest, so perhaps there may be a parrallel conversation with traditional Catholics, Anglicans and so forth.  I am not sure how this will work, but this page outlines my reason for re-doing my web pages.  

Christ the King Church & Priory British Columbia
22646, 48th Avenue
Langley, BC, V2Z 2T6


"Dancing In The Sky"

[Verse 1:]
Tell me, what does it look like in heaven?
Is it peaceful? Is it free like they say?
Does the sun shine bright forever?
Have your fears and your pain gone away?

'Cause here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left
And here on earth everything's different, there's an emptiness

Oh-oh, I,
I hope you're dancing in the sky
I hope you're singing in the angel's choir
I hope the angels know what they have
I'll bet it's so nice up in heaven since you arrived

[Verse 2:]
So tell me, what do you do up in heaven?
Are your days filled with love and light?
Is there music? Is there art and invention?
Tell me are you happy? Are you more alive?

'Cause here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left
And here on earth everything's different, there's an emptiness

Oh-oh, I,
I hope you're dancing in the sky
And I hope you're singing in the angel's choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I'll bet it's so nice up in heaven since you arrived

I hope you're dancing in the sky
And I hope you're singing in the angel's choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I'll bet it's so nice up in heaven since you arrived
Since you arrived


Ideally, the SSPX Parish (Christ the King) in Langley would be the place to organize these meetings, but we can meet in other places as well.  I want to set up some kind of skype or other means of bringing into the conversation Catholic and other academics who would like to participate in considering the scholastic message on the "nature of indigenous" questions.  This includes inviting indigenous partners of Catholic and scholastic philosophers so that we can keep it grounded in terms of hearing from all sides.

Responses from local academics (St.Mark's College) has been favorable; response has been linked also to a way in which academia and philosophy, in particular can promote reconciliation.  Certainly, the rethinking of what scholastics had to say about indigenous people is important and should not be skimmed over.  However, since writing my original letter, I learned about the tensions between the Vatican and the SSPX so I am trying to create an environment of comfort because a comfortable and safe environment always encourages sharing of ideas.  Hence, a separate process for traditional catholics and catholics of the Vatican II persuasion.  However, I am also indigenous and our processes are always welcoming and inclusive of all peoples, so I am not sure how to manage this; it is probably not an issue at all between Catholics.

The project described herein could also function as an activity of reconciliation as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  I cannot think of a more appropriate way in which Catholics and Indigenous people can understand each other more than understanding our ideas, world view and perhaps the common struggle to find answers about our lives in this existence.  What riches can be revived from ancient, scholastic and indigenous thought?

So, in terms of the Lower Mainland, and in relation to scholastic philosophies I am open to ideas of who should "be at the table" and how can we connect with scholastic resources within the SSPX network either in Canada or globally. I look forward to talking about this with SSPX here in Canada.





​Where the Rivers Meet (WTRM) Website