Tag Archives: Indigenous knowledge

Inuit Cultural Online Resource


This website is designed to be a resource on Canadian Inuit Culture for Canadian school-aged children and their teachers. The site contains cultural information as text, videos, and weblinks, it also contains downloadable worksheets for classroom use. Created by the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Center, this site was funded by the Canadian Heritage Gateway Fund.

Educator’s Guide to American Indian Perspectives in Natural Resources

The ‘Educator’s Guide to American Indian Perspectives in Natural Resources‘ is a down loadable PDF book that purports to blend traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) with western science and gives important background information regarding tribal use and management of natural resources. Reading it should empower educators to feel comfortable and confident in including the perspective of the native population in their high school science programs. The following are a sample of the questions addressed in the resource:

  1. What is the rationale for including Native perspectives in a natural resource program?
  2. What are some differences between scientific and Native American ways of knowing or understanding of the environment?
  3. Did low population densities affect the historical use and management of resources? How do current population stresses affect tribal use and management practices?
  4. What are the best and most appropriate ways to partner with local tribes? What ethical considerations may be necessary?


Traditional Knowledge Bulletin

The Traditional Knowledge Bulletin is an information service being offered by the United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Institute in Australia. It aims to provide information on traditional knowledge (TK) related discussions at international forums by posting weekly reviews of TK issues in the global news and individual posts on issues relevant to TK at the global level. The blog is active and monthly archives are available back to March 2007.

Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth & Climate – Lesson Plans

Found at the Teacher’s Domain, which is a free digital media service for education use, the ‘Alaska Natives Perspectives on Earth & Climate‘ webpage provides links to student activities, lesson plans, and videos.  The resources are organized under topics of traditional ways of knowing: spirit, air, fire, water, and earth; and Earth as a system: atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. The lesson plans are recommended for grades 6-12, detailed, and are based on Alaskan Native ways of knowing. The site is free to use, although you have to register after 7 uses.

Module 4: Third World Farmer


Third World Farmer is a game that makes use of Indigenous knowledge and teaches gamers about the struggles of a farmer in a developing nation.  The game bridges technology and IK in many layers.  The first layer is that of the actual game design–it is a game on a computer, but the rules of the game are dictated by environmental and social factors that influence the livelihood of an African farmer, and to overcome the difficulties, the gamer must discover the Indigenous knowledge to be successful.  Within the game IK and technology are also linked.  When the gamer starts, all she has is her family and a bit of money.  She must research the various crops and decide how best to spend her money.  Through trial and error, the gamer develops a very rudimentary form of Indigenous knowledge.  As the gamer makes more money, she can buy various technologies that will make her life easier and help her yield better crops and thus make more money.

Some of the criticisms I have of this game are that the fact that it is a game may trivialize the plight of the third world farmer.  There is not a lot of education going on to really inform the gamer of the social implications of the GAME itself.  There is infomation about the severity of the situation in Africa, and a critical thinker would understand the message, but the average gamer would not see that while he or she may have just lost their entire family to a plague, the actual farmer the character represents can’t escape this reality.  Another criticism is that the issues behind the struggles are not very well articulated.  It does show that these farmers are being forced to work with in the confines of mechanization, but it doesn’t reveal that the increase in length, frequencey and severity of droughts is caused by industrialization and capitalism.  You also can’t save your game and pick up where you left off later.  This is frustrating from a game point of view, but also from a learning point of view.  To get the full effect of the game, several hours are required, which I’d like to expend over a few weeks, but because I can’t save the game, I have to start over each time, but I also don’t have the stamina (or time or patience) to spend 7 consecutive hours playing the same game.

World Summit on the Information Society

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), sponsored by the UN and mentioned in Ginsburg’s (2008) chapter Rethinking the Digital Age, was held with two objectives at hand: to develop and foster a political statement and take concrete steps in establishing foundations for equal and equitable Information Societies across the globe (Geneva, 2003); and to implement the plan along with developing solutions and agreements for internet governance and mechanisms of financing the solution (Tunis, 2005).  The summit addressed the paradoxical realities of the unfolding digital revolution and the widening digital divide. Forums were held in 2010 and 2011 to follow-up on the implementation of WSIS.

Articles relating to the participation of indigenous peoples in the information society appear in the outcome documents for WSIS. The Statement of Principles notes that “In the evolution of the Information Society, particular attention must be given to the special situation of indigenous peoples, as well as to the preservation of their heritage and their cultural legacy.” Action items include developing ways to educate and train interested indigenous groups so they may participate in the information society, along with the creation of content that values and reaffirms indigenous knowledge and traditions, noting that this has the potential to strengthen communities. The plan also calls for action to enhance indigenous peoples’ capacity to create content in their own languages, and cooperation with indigenous groups to enable effective and beneficial use of traditional knowledge within information societies.

Module 4: Mythology Proving Science

TEK and Science

This video is made by a caucasian biology teacher in Alaska who writes curriculum that integrates TEK and science.  He is a bit of a rambler, but near the end he links supposedly superstitious behavious and myths with scientific evidence.  The two examples he uses is that every 25/30 years, the Inuit Shaman would tell the village to burn all of their fishing gear at the end of a fishing season.  Given the scarcity of resources to make this gear, this would seem preposterous.  However, they would make new fishing gear, and not to catch the same fish.  They would alternate between crustaceans and vertebrates every 20-30 years as their main sustenance.  Modern science now shows that the Arctic ocean goes through 20/30 year temperature cycles that influence whether crustaceans or vertebrates flourish.  The Inuit would fish for whatever fish was plentiful.  This explains how the crab fishery is in ruins today–the Western market demanded it when the natural stocks were low.  Now they have been fished to the point where they may not recover. 

While I love the beauty of tradition and science corroborating each other, his description lacks insight into the spiritual nature of the myths and behaviours.  Many of the comments about the video are positive, but question the “superstitions” of the Inuit.  Being that he is caucasian, he likely isn’t versed on the spiritual nature of the myths and behaviours, but this is such an important concept for the Inuit, and given that it is brought up by viewers, it does need to be addressed properly so that the behaviours/myths aren’t “explained away” or commodified and dismissed as superstitions.

Module 3: Intellectual Property and Indigenous Knowledge


Simply marrying up science and traditional/indigenous knowledge is not an option.  Too often, science has sifted through the sandbox of traditional knowledge and taken what was seen as valuable (bio-active ingredients in plants that can be used for profit) and discarded the rest.

Often discarded was the cultural and spiritual base of traditional knowledge.  Science has long claimed to be culture free, and logical and thus the best world view, when in fact this in itself is a cultural assumption!  We need to “listen to our own historians and philosophers of science, then we must acknowledge that science has another face that is not the one most commonly presented for public consumption. Science has its own historical, social and cultural context. From its very origins, science is anchored in a dualistic worldview that separates Culture and Nature, sets humans apart from other living organisms, and opposes the rational and the spiritual. This will to separate, reduce and compartmentalise is both science’s force, as witnessed by enormous advances in Western technology, and its weakness” as can be seen by the problems that modern science has gotten us into recently!

What also needs to be considered are the intellectual property rights of the owners of the knowledge.  Just like the patent of a drug must be respected, even though it can save lives, so to must the intellectual property of a group of indigenous peoples.

Module 3: Winds of Change and Daniel Wildcat


This pdf is a bit of a review of the discussions and events at the Seven Generations Conference in 2008.  Of particular interest to my research is the interview with Daniel Wildcat who is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas.  His specialty is in Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment and education.  The epiphany he describes through story in this interview is my thesis for my paper.  While working with NASA and remote sensing satellite images of Earth, he decided that First Nations people were “local sensing” experts and that the two forms of knowing–scientific and indigenous–work together to create a larger, more accurate picture.

Indigenous knowledge can certainly give scientists more specific, holistic information about what is happening at ground level or “in real life” (as opposed to in satellite images on on pages of data), but the rapid rate at which things are changing, and the extreme nature of the changes often renders the problem solving skill set of the particular indigenous knowledge ill equipped to deal.  Thus, scientists and indigenous thinkers need to collaborate in order to problem solve and troubleshoot the solutions to this massive issue.

Dechinta: Bush University Centre

Dechinta is a new concept in education rooted in indigenous knowledge and values. It offers a land-based University credited education led by northern elders, leaders, experts and professors to engage youth in transformative curricula. It is located near Yellowknife NWT, is off the grid and accessible only by float plane, snowmobile or dog team.

A video is available describing the Dechinta experience. CBC North did a special news story on Dechinta on June 22, 2011 highlighting the first semester. Dechinta was recently in the news at it was one of the premier stops that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) made while visiting Yellowknife on July 5, 2011.