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:
- What is the rationale for including Native perspectives in a natural resource program?
- What are some differences between scientific and Native American ways of knowing or understanding of the environment?
- Did low population densities affect the historical use and management of resources? How do current population stresses affect tribal use and management practices?
- What are the best and most appropriate ways to partner with local tribes? What ethical considerations may be necessary?
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.
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.
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.
This short film explores the bond between Aboriginal youth and Elders and unites them in talking circles with the goal of sharing of words of wisdom. Elders from the Dene, Cree, Blackfoot, and Metis from across Alberta helped provide the guidance that was central to the program. The relationships were coordinated by the Alberta Native Friendship Centers Association and the Alberta Aboriginal Youth Council. This summary of their work was filmed in Jasper, Alberta – August, 2007.
The film begins by reminding us that Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population and facing a strong set of challenges. Like their ancestors overcame, the conviction is conveyed that through belief in their culture, in their own self-worth, and through a sense of belonging, these difficult times will be overcome. Through the guidance of Elders (always capitalized), Aboriginal youth are coming to know their culture and appreciate their traditions and customs.
A focus on emotion characterizes much of the film. Many of the youth require emotional guidance and have been subjected to discrimination. Many Elders mention that lack of spirituality – lack of a belief in a power greater than yourself – is harming youth and getting them caught up in the material world that is full of ills such as violence, drugs, alcohol, and disengagement
One girl describes being the only one of 8 in her family who does not drink or do drugs. This is a sobering reality for some in the Indigenous community. Becoming human and humble and moving away from the arrogance that characterizes substance abuse is described as a healing quality that needs to be spread among the youth. This type of wisdom is passed on during hours and hours of informal discussion with Elders.
It’s interesting that most of the Elders featured in the film were women and many of the participating youth were teens in crisis. The ability of the women to be both nurturing and candid seems to have played a role in helping the youth who are interviewed to move away from harmful behaviours.
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.
This website is about Sophie Thomas, a respected Dakelh elder (Carrier Nation in the northern interior of BC) and traditional healer who was dedicated to teaching others about the traditional ways of using plants to heal. She has spoken at elementary schools, high schools, post-secondary institutions, and international conferences sharing her knowledge of herbs and advocating for the preservation of environment. The site contains descriptions of her book ‘Plants and Medicines’ and video ‘ The Warmth of Love, the 4 Seasons’. Sophie was to receive an honorary degree from the University of British Columbia in May 2010 but passed away in her 80s in March 2010.
The NEC Native Education College (formerly Native Education Center) in Vancouver opened it’s doors in 1967 and is British Columbia’s largest private Aboriginal college. The NEC is governed by the NEC Native Education Society, a non-profit charitable organization that assumed governance of the institution in 1979. NEC provides an avenue for culturally responsive post-secondary education for Aboriginal students grounded in it’s physical setting as well as it’s philosophical underpinnings. in 1988/89, Dr. Celia Haig-Brown, currently faculty of York University, conducted fieldwork towards a critical ethnography of the institution to identify the meanings and processes of First Nations control of First Nations education. The published ethnography, Taking Control: Power and Contradiction in First Nations Adult Education (UBC Press) is a thorough read and I recommend it to any person with an interest in First Nations’ educational issues.
This particular link is for the 2009 Summit, but I’m hoping that this is an annual event! Here, indigenous people gather to discuss the changes they are seeing and the strategies they are trying to employ to cope. Indigenous people tend to live in the harshest environments thanks to colonization, and thus they are receiving the brunt of the climate change. In addition to coping with the rapid changes Mother Nature is throwing at them are the rapid economic and social changes that have been ongoing.
What is becoming interesting as my research progresses is the statement that indigenous people rely so heavily on the land. The statement seems to suggest that non-indigenous people do not rely on the land nearly as much, and of course this is erroneous. The difference is that non-indigenous people are not as connected to the land. The resources come from the exact same places, but the connection is far more removed for non-indigenous people likely making them feel less vulnerable. Also, non-indigenous people tend to live in less severe climates due to colonization practices, and are likely not feeling the effects of climate change as harshly.
This video from Alaska identifies the irony between traditional knowledge and climate change and scientific knowledge and climate change. Aboriginal people in Alaska have been discussing climate change for over 40 years, but supposed modern science has only started seeing a trend in the last 20 years and only in the last 5 has the gravity of the situation begun to sink in. The Aboriginal people of Alaska are seeing new species that do not like the cold waters of their oceans and new diseases in the animals. Also pressing to their situation are increased deaths due to fragile ice–it’s melting sooner and faster.
I particularly like how advanced the traditional knowledge of climate change is here versus scientific knowledge. I’m wondering if the connotations of “traditional knowledge” imply too much antiquity and render it less reliable than scientific knowledge, or if it is a ethnocentric stubbornness that is preventing scientists from working with Elders.