Traditional Ecological Knowledge,
also called by other names including
Indigenous Knowledge or Native
Science, (hereafter, TEK) refers to
the evolving knowledge acquired by
indigenous and local peoples over
hundreds or thousands of years
through direct contact with the
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Kim Greenwood, Tribal Liaison
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region
On behalf of the Service’s TEK Team
Sarah Rinkevich, R2 Endangered Species Biologist Crystal Leonetti, R7 Alaska Native Affairs Specialist
A Poster Presentation
Contributions Of Indigenous Knowledge To Fisheries Management
By: Susan Georgette
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge,
Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native
Ways of Knowing
- Drawing on experiences across Fourth World contexts, with an emphasis on the Alaska
context, this article seeks to extend our understandings of the learning processes within and
at the intersection of diverse world views and knowledge systems.We outline the rationale for
a comprehensive program of educational initiatives closely articulated with the emergence of
a new generation of Indigenous scholars who seek to move the role of Indigenous knowledge
and learning from the margins to the center of educational research, thereby confronting
some of the most intractable and salient educational issues of our times. Read More !
- Comparing TEK and Western Science. Read More !
Traditional Environmental Knowledge In Federal Natural Resource Management Agencies
- The study of traditional environmental
knowledge (TEK, also expressed as traditional ecological knowledge) in applied settings is an important and growing field for environmental anthropologists
who seek to put the methods and findings of anthropology to work in public and environmental policy contexts.
The incredible depth and insight of indigenous environmental knowledge
is well known in anthropological circles, and for better or worse, has been captured in the public consciousness. Read More !
Indigenous Stewardship Methods and NRCS Conservation Practices
- This guidebook
provides guidance to employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and to indigenous cooperators who
work with NRCS. It provides a sensitive process in which knowledge is shared,
allowing employees to incorporate the indigenous knowledge into NRCS’ assistance
through its conservation practices. The indigenous perspective of living in
harmony with the earth and the agency perspective of scientific and experiential
learning are portrayed in the words of the guidebook. Read More !
Federal Data Collection in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities
- This paper presents recommendations to federal agencies for data collection in American
Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. The National Congress of American Indians Policy
Research Center (NCAI PRC) has developed this paper in response to numerous requests from
federal agencies soliciting advice about how to improve data collection processes in AI/AN
communities. Overall, we recommend that federal agencies openly consult with tribal
governmental officials, and seek their insights and support. Read More !
Research Review Checklist for American Indian and Alaska Native
- Regulation of research is becoming an increasingly important issue for many American Indian/Alaska
Native (AI/AN) communities. Through whatever mechanism and process they choose, AI/AN communities
should carefully regulate research projects throughout all phases: in the initial stage of reviewing
proposals, while the research is ongoing, and finally in dissemination and publication of the research
findings. The National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center (NCAI PRC) has developed
the following checklist as a guide for reviewing research projects from beginning to end. Read More !
Invited Feature in Ecological Applications
on Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Ecosystem Science, and Environmental Management
- As the pace of ecological change increases, so too does the need for baseline information with which to direct conservation and restoration activities. Often, however, data are scarce. The premise of this Invited Feature is that there are complementary sources of knowledge about local ecosystems held by people whose lives are interwoven in complex ways with particular lands and waters. Local knowledge is richest when it has accumulated over generations, embedding observations and corresponding cultural adaptations within a context of long-term ecological change. (pdf)
Traditional Knowledge Of Indigenous And Local Communities: International Debate And Policy Initiatives
- This paper reviews international law and policy regarding the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities that are defining the role of traditional and indigenous knowledge in the management and conservation of biodiversity. (pdf)
Traditional Ecological Knowledge And Wisdom Of Aboriginal Peoples In British Columbia
- This paper discusses the characteristics and application of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom (TEKW) of aboriginal peoples in British Columbia, Canada. Examples are provided from various groups, most notably, the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Interior Salish and Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-Chah-Nulth peoples of the Northwest Coast, covering a range of features. (pdf)
The Sacred and The Scientific: Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Siberian River Conservation
- The Katun Valley contains large numbers of important cultural sites, dating from the Neolithic and representing some of the earliest human settlement in Russia. Modern-day Altaians still observe traditional ceremonies honoring the river and springs throughout the watershed and utilize traditional ecological knowledge in their management of the land and water resources. (pdf)
The Role of Mongolian Nomadic Pastoralists' Ecological Knowledge in Rangeland Management
- Past stereotypes of indigenous pastoralists as ignorant and environmentally destructive are being revised as ecological and social science research advances. As yet, little documentation of pastoralists' ecological knowledge exists, and even less is known about how this knowledge is, or can be, applied to resource management. This paper outlines the ecological knowledge of Mongolian nomadic pastoralists and its role in rangeland management. (pdf)
Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Third Alternative (Commentary)
- Contemporary Western attitudes concerning the management of natural resources, treatment of nonhuman animals, and the natural world emerge from traditions derived from Western European philosophy, i.e., they assume that humans are autonomous from, and in control of, the natural world. A different approach is presented by Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of indigenous peoples of North America. Although spiritually oriented, TEK converges on Western scientific approaches. TEK is based on close observation of nature and natural phenomena; however, it is combined with a concept of community membership that differs from that of Western political and social thought. (pdf)
Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management
- Indigenous groups offer alternative knowledge and perspectives based on their own locally developed practices of resource use. Case studies revealed that there exists a diversity of local or traditional practices for ecosystem management. Some traditional knowledge and management systems were characterized by the use of local ecological knowledge to interpret and respond to feedbacks from the environment to guide the direction of resource management. These traditional systems had certain similarities to adaptive management with its emphasis on feedback. (pdf)
Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Science: Methods And Applications
- Advocates of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) have promoted its use in scientific research, impact assessment, and ecological understanding. While several examples illustrate the utility of applying TEK in these contexts, wider application of TEK derived information remains elusive. This paper describes some of the benefits of using TEK in scientific and management contexts. It also reviews some of the methods that are available to do so, including semi-directive interviews, questionnaires, facilitated workshops, and collaborative field projects. (pdf)
Interspecific Relationships Affecting Endangered Species Recognized By O'odham And Comcaac Cultures
- Because certain indigenous peoples have lived in the same habitats for centuries, their languages often encode traditional ecological knowledge about interactions between plant and animal species that occur in those habitats. This local knowledge is sometimes complementary to more broadly derived knowledge accrued by academically trained field ecologists. (pdf)
New Meanings for Old Knowledge: The People's Biodiversity Registers Program
- The program of People's Biodiversity Registers (PBR) is an attempt to promote folk ecological knowledge and wisdom in two ways: by devising more formal means for their maintenance, and by creating new contexts for their continued practice. The process of preparation of PBRs, as well as the resultant documents, could serve a significant role in promoting more sustainable, flexible, participatory systems of management and in ensuring a better flow of benefits from economic use of the living resources to the local communities. (pdf)
Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions Of The Human-Nature Relationship
- Indigenous people view both themselves and nature as part of an extended ecological family that shares ancestry and origins. It is an awareness that life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin. The kin, or relatives, include all the natural elements of an ecosystem. Indigenous people are affected by and, in turn, affect the life around them. The interactions that result from this "kincentric ecology" enhance and preserve the ecosystem. (pdf)
The Kvichak Watershed Subsistence Salmon Fishery: An Ethnographic Study
- This report presents the results of an ethnographic project that investigated how families in 4 communities of the Kvichak District of the Bristol Bay Management Area of Southwest Alaska develop subsistence fishing strategies, such as when to fish, where to fish, who to fish with, and how much to harvest, in response to changing sociocultural, economic, and environmental circumstances. The report concludes that the subsistence fishery is vital to the way of life of the study communities, and is accomplished in an efficient and sustainable manner informed by traditional knowledge. (pdf)
How TEK is Being Applied
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Federal Subsistence Management Program - Alaska
The Federal Subsistence Management Program is a multi agency effort to provide the opportunity for a subsistence way of life by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and waters while maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife. This dependence on wild resources is both cultural, social and economic. Alaska's indigenous inhabitants have relied upon the traditional harvest of wild foods for thousands of years and have passed this way of life, its culture, and values down through generations.
Many of these Reports contain TEK studies that include methodologies and results.
2010 Fisheries Resource Monitoring Plan
To increase the quantity and quality of information available for management of subsistence fisheries, the Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program (Monitoring Program) was established within the Office of Subsistence Management. The Monitoring Program was envisioned as a collaborative inter-agency, inter-disciplinary approach to enhance existing fisheries research, and effectively communicate information needed for subsistence fisheries management on Federal public lands.
Harvest monitoring and traditional ecological knowledge (HM-TEK) studies address assessment of subsistence fisheries including quantification of harvest and effort, and description and assessment of fishing and use patterns.
TEK Links of Interest
Traditional Knowledge & Science Conserving Murray Freshwater Turtles
Science and traditional knowledge are coming together in the efforts by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Yorta Yorta people to conserve the freshwater turtle species of the mid-Murray River region.
Researchers from DSE's Arthur Rylah Institute are helping the Yorta Yorta people to manage the health of local turtle populations including their totem Bayadherra, the Broad-shelled Turtle (Chelodina expansa), in the Barmah-Millewa National Park. YouTube Video (3:34).
Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management by Charles R. Menzies
Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management examines how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is taught and practiced today among Native communities. Of special interest is the complex relationship between indigenous ecological practices and other ways of interacting with the environment, particularly regional and national programs of natural resource management. Focusing primarily on the northwest coast of North America, scholars look at the challenges and opportunities confronting the local practice of indigenous ecological knowledge in a range of communities, including the Tsimshian, the Nisga’a, the Tlingit, the Gitksan, the Kwagult, the Sto:lo, and the northern Dene in the Yukon. The experts consider how traditional knowledge is taught and learned and address the cultural importance of different subsistence practices using natural elements such as seaweed (Gitga’a), pine mushrooms (Tsimshian), and salmon (Tlingit).
Several contributors discuss the extent to which national and regional programs of resource management need to include models of TEK in their planning and execution. This volume highlights the different ways of seeing and engaging with the natural world and underscores the need to acknowledge and honor the ways that indigenous peoples have done so for generations.
Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management by Fikret Berkes
This book deals with the topic of traditional ecological knowledge specifically in the context of natural resource management. An issue of today is how humans can develop a more acceptable relationship with the environment that supports them. Growing interest in traditional ecological knowledge is perhaps indicative of two things: the need for ecological insights from indigenous practices of resource use; and the need to develop a new ecological ethic in part by learning from the wisdom of traditional knowledge holders.
This book explores both of these ideas together by treating traditional ecological knowledge as a knowledge-practice-belief complex.; This complex looks at traditional knowledge at four interrelated levels: local knowledge (species specific); the resource management system; social institutions; and worldview (religion, ethics, and defined belief systems). Divided into three parts that deal with concepts, practices and issues, respectively, the book examines many traditional knowledge systems. It discusses the usefulness of traditional ecological knowledge in terms of providing an understanding, not merely information, which is complementary to scientific ecology. At the same time, the book explores a diversity of relationships that different groups have developed with their environment, using extensive case studies.
Red Alert!: Saving the Planet with
Indigenous Knowledge by Daniel R. Wildcat
“What the world needs today is a good dose of indigenous realism,” says Native American scholar Daniel R. Wildcat in this thoughtful, forward-looking treatise. The Native response to the environmental crisis facing our planet, Red Alert! seeks to debunk our civilization’s long-misguided perception that humankind is at odds with nature or that it exerts control over the natural world.
Taking a hard look at the biggest problem that we face today—the damaging way we live on this earth—Wildcat draws upon ancient Native American wisdom and nature-centered beliefs to advocate a modern strategy to combat global warming. Inspiring and insightful, Red Alert! is a stirring call to action.
Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence by Gregory Cajete
Cajete examines the multiple levels of meaning that inform Native astronomy, cosmology, psychology, agriculture, and the healing arts. Unlike the western scientific method, native thinking does not isolate an object or phenomenon in order to understand it, but perceives it in terms of relationship.
An understanding of the relationships that bind together natural forces and all forms of life has been fundamental to the ability of indigenous peoples to live for millennia in spiritual and physical harmony with the land. It is clear that the first peoples offer perspectives that can help us work toward solutions at this time of global environmental crisis.
Indigenous Knowledge, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology by Raymond Pierotti
Indigenous ways of understanding and interacting with the natural world are characterized as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which derives from emphasizing relationships and connections among species. This book examines TEK and its strengths in relation to Western ecological knowledge and evolutionary philosophy.
Pierotti takes a look at the scientific basis of this approach, focusing on different concepts of communities and connections among living entities, the importance of understanding the meaning of relatedness in both spiritual and biological creation, and a careful comparison with evolutionary ecology. The text examines the themes and principles informing this knowledge, and offers a look at the complexities of conducting research from an indigenous perspective.
Is Indigenous Knowledge Intellectual Property?
Indigenous or traditional knowledge has become a buzzword in environmental circles, with puzzled scientists often wondering whether age-old wisdom might hold answers.
ClimateChange.tv brings us an interesting clip about an issue being addressed by the World Intellectual Property Organization: Who owns indigenous knowledge, and should it be protected by patent or copyright as intellectual property?
Click here to view video (9:38).
Disclaimer: Resource material and links provided are for informational purposes only.
It does not imply endorsement of any kind by the U.S. Government.