What Do Indigenous Knowledges Do for Indigenous Peoples?
Forthcoming in Keepers of the Green World: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability, edited by Melissa K. Nelson and Dan Shilling.
20 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2015 Last revised: 1 Mar 2017
Date Written: January 27, 2017
This essay is written to address conversations about the best ways to engage in knowledge exchange on important sustainability issues between Indigenous knowledges and fields of climate, environmental and sustainability sciences. In terms of sustainability, a crucial facet of the self-determination of peoples such as Indigenous nations and communities is the responsibility and the right to make plans for the future using planning processes that are inclusive, well-informed, culturally-relevant, and respectful of human interdependence with nonhumans and the environment. Indigenous knowledges often play a crucial role in Indigenous planning processes. In my work, I have found that scientists often appreciate what I will call here the supplemental-value of Indigenous knowledges — the value of Indigenous knowledges as inputs for adding (i.e. supplementing) data that scientific methods do not normally track. In the domain of supplemental-value, Indigenous people’s planning processes will improve, in turn, by having access to the supplemented and hence improved science. But it is also the case that Indigenous knowledges have governance-value. That is, they serve as irreplaceable sources of guidance for Indigenous resurgence and nation-building. Scientists should appreciate governance-value because it suggests that for some Indigenous peoples in knowledge exchange situations, we need to be assured that the flourishing of our knowledges is respected and protected. I hope to make the case for why it is important for scientists who work with Indigenous peoples to understand governance value in the hopes that this understanding will improve their approaches to knowledge exchange with Indigenous peoples.
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, indigenous governance, traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous resurgence
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