Tag Archives: traditional knowledge

Module 2: Traditional Knowledge and Green Party of BC


What would a project on traditional knowledge and climate change be with out a little politics?  Incomplete by today’s standards!

This is a brief analysis by a Green member of an article about climate change.  In 1999 there was an unprecedented storm in northern BC and local Elders told scientists and leaders that  a storm of that magnitude had never happened before.  It took 12 years for researchers at Queens and Carleton to confirm this information.  The Green member wonders why this knowledge had to be confirmed scientifically and points out that the information was already there and that the money spent on research could have been spent on actually addressing the problem rather than confirming that it was actually a problem…which Elders already said it was.

This is an interesting article point to the bias of Western society towards science as opposed to other forms of knowing.

My interest in this site is to see how much the Green Party of BC actually uses traditional knowledge versus scientific.  Do they strike a balance or are they biased one way or the other?

Module 2: Traditional Knowledge World Bank


I’m pretty excited about this site so far!  I liked the name right away, but was wary about how this information is being managed and if cultural/intellectual property rights were being respected.  It’s a UNESCO site and they ensure that “Thanks to its study and classification activities, the Traditional Knowledge World Bank protects the rights of local communities who hold knowledge.  It fosters the recognition of communities’ property rights and it protects them juridically at an International level.”

The site contains information about traditional agricultural practices, water management, architecture, social organizations, art, spirituality of various regions.  The goal is more responsible or informed environmental stewardship, which is the direction I think my project is going.

What is ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’?

Article ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’

The author of this article, Deborah McGregor,  Anishinabe, is from the Whitefish River First Nation and is an Assistant Professor in Geography and Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto. In this article she discusses the definition of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and the Anishinabe perspective on TEK.  The Anishinabe  Recreation story which emphasizes the respect of all life forms is described. The author suggests that Aboriginal knowledge cannot be separated meaningfully from the people that hold it and perhaps more energy should be spent helping Aboriginal people so their culture is not lost, rather than documenting knowledge before the people disappear.

Wade Davis on Endangered Cultures

My first weblog posting of Module 1 was a TedTalk and I will continue in a similar fashion for Module 2 in our discussions of indigeneity and stereotyping.

“Remote lands of indigenous peoples are not remote at all. They are homelands of somebody.” In his discussion on Endangered Cultures, Wade Davis covers a lot of ground – from language to landscapes, traditional knowledge holders and indigenous peoples who face unknown modernity. He talks Voodoo, not a black magic cult (that’s a stereotype,) but complex metaphysical worldview. He talks of rites of priesthood of the Kogi, which include a strict 18-year inculturation into the values of their society. He discusses the level of indigenous intuition and relation to landscapes in comparison with the emotional disconnect evident in a contemporary resource-based economy. He talks of Indigenous people that say plants “talk” to them and the impossibility of dissect their explanation of plant taxonomy from a scholarly standpoint.

Davis notes that even those who are aware of the endangered nature of many indigenous cultures still view these cultures as quaint and colorful, however reduced from the live-a-day world of western society. He argues that it is not technology or the change technology brings that threatens indigenous societies, it is an overpowering domination to mimic Westernized notions of how technology should be used, and how change should proceed, that is the root of the threat.


Forests & Oceans for the Future – Lesson Plans

Forests & Oceans for the Future is a research group based at UBC that collaborates with North Coast BC communities to conduct ecological research. One of their key activities is to design educational materials suitable for use in BC K-12 classrooms and give curricular alignments, they appear to be well suited for high school classes. There are seven detailed and informative unit plans that cover topics of TEK and Western science comparison, traditional plant knowledge, resource use, forestry, regional identity, and climate change. (This is also the research group that produced the ‘Return to Gitzaala’ video)


Traditional Knowledge, Climate Change and Technology

Using the reductionist model of scientific ways of knowing—research and observation—alone is in adequate in the study of ecology and in particular climate change.  Ecosystems and climates are established over centuries, however, scientific data recording these events and cycles dates back only 50 or sixty years in some locations.  Few, if any, regions in the world have more than 100 years of data with which to analyze the health of an ecosystem or the patterns of a climate.

Also problematic with this approach to the study of the land, is the objective removal of the human being.  The reductionist model has the scientist standing back and watching as independent and dependent variables interact.  It is as if the human is not part of this ecosystem.  Limited, but recent and scary data suggest that assumptions that the vastness of the earth could never be affected by the human are coming to be challenged as climates and ecosystems are changing rapidly.  The idea that the human is separate from the land is being questioned by modern science, but modern science lacks a model that incorporates the human as an agent and member of these ecosystems, but there is no time to sit around and think of one.

Aboriginal traditional knowledge can help scientists understand better the changes happening in various regions of the world because traditional knowledge reaches so far back into the memory of indigenous groups.  The collective memory of indigenous groups provides a more holistic understanding of the intricacies and relationships that exist between species and systems.  The most important part of the traditional knowledge approach to understanding the environment is that the human being is placed as an active member of the system.  This role is important for people to recognize their power over the environment but more importantly, their responsibility.

My research will focus on analyzing how indigenous groups use the internet to promote a holistic approach to understanding ecosystems and climate change.  My hope is that I will see scientists and other aboriginal groups borrowing from each other as we attempt to understand and rectify, or live with, the changes that our planet is undergoing.

Module 1: Endangered Species in Canada


This site has really grabbed my interest!  The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has the daunting and important task of evaluating the health of the various species of wildlife in Canada.  It is a very interesting approach to what has likely always been a very hard-science based practice.  Scientists tracking the health of the species that we rely on in Canada likely realized very quickly that their data did not go back far enough to make informed decisions, but they also realized that for the health of some species, decisions had to be made!

Aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) is incorporated into their annual assessments.  The website has information on what ATK is, and even states that the meaning of ATK varies depending on what region one is researching.  The assessment process for determining the health of a species is listed and in that list is the protocol around using ATK.  This protocol includes cultural sensitivity due to the spiritual nature of the information.  The site is run by the Government of Canada and so this representation of ATK is in my opinion a grand tipping of the hat, so to speak, to First Nations cultures and their vast knowledge of the land.