Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show, a 13-part educational series, premiered on APTN February 11. But its inception came years ago in the Alberta Blackfoot community of Siksika.
“Dr. Leroy Littlebear and his partner Amethyst First Rider were working with quantum physicists and Elders,” said the show’s producer Loretta Todd. “Leroy had this idea of bringing quantum physicists together with Elders because he thought that Blackfoot science had a lot in common with quantum physics.”
That idea germinated into a children’s series about Indigenous science, the first of its kind on APTN. It brings together Indigenous artists, scientists, Elders and kids to answer riddles posed by the show’s co-host Coyote. For Todd, it’s about encouraging Indigenous kids to take an active interest in science.
“Our kids don’t often see themselves reflected back in science and math, and studies have shown that if you can see yourself in the curriculum, you’ll do better,” explained Todd. “I want our children to be enthusiastic about Indigenous science and western math and science.”
The show features celebrity appearances and performers like Dani and Lizzy and Kinnie Starr, and the first Indigenous astronaut to walk in space, Commander John Herrington.
“The intention is that if our kids to see that science is fun and that people are supporting them in their journey for knowledge they’ll be more likely to succeed and pursue careers in science,” Todd told the Nation. “We need more Indigenous science and scientists in this world.”
There’s also a website, game and YouTube channel that accompanies the show. The mission of the game is, appropriately, to fix a world that’s fallen out of balance. The website can be accessed here: www.coyotescience.com
But what’s unique about the show is how it approaches the topic. In a western sense, science can be viewed as a rational constant on paper and in turn, a bit lifeless. The show does its best to turn that perspective on its head and breath not only life and energy into the discipline but tradition, story and ceremony.
“Indigenous science comes from the land and from place, and our relationship to land and place is through ceremony,” said Todd. “Western science sees the scientific method as the pinnacle but story is another way of coming to knowledge. Where do we find stories? Our Elders.”
And while the show embraces mixed media, is broken into short segments and features a talking coyote, “the show isn’t just for kids, it’s for the whole family,” insists Todd. “We hope people and communities like it and we appreciate all the support.”
Todd has always thought of herself as an amateur science enthusiast and never thought she’d be making a children’s show about it. She credits her family and community for her interest and desire to re-shape perceptions around Indigenous science.
“Here we are, these very ingenious people but we never get recognition for that, and, in fact, we’ve been depicted as the opposite of scientists,” said Todd in closing. “The whole idea of Coyote as the trickster is reflective of Indigenous science, and the ideas of change and chaos and flux are at the core of quantum physics.”