Stronger Together: Weaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science

World Policy blog posted an article titled, “Stronger Together: Weaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science.” The article reads in part as follows;

“As the president of the Saami Council, Áile Javo, reminded the Arctic Council in 2015, “neither science nor traditional knowledge alone can provide the answers needed to face the impacts of Arctic change.” Since its founding, the Arctic Council has recognized the importance of working with both Western science and Indigenous Knowledge, also referred to as Traditional Knowledge, to address challenges in the Arctic. But the process of incorporating two different knowledge systems into Arctic Council research and projects has proven difficult and slow.

In 2015 at the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, there was hope that the adoption of recommendations from the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) for the incorporation of Traditional and Local Knowledge would be a momentous step forward. But some groups expressed concerns about conflating ‘local’ knowledge—that held by anyone living in a specific place—with Indigenous Knowledge, which refers to systematic ways of knowing tied to multigenerational observation, interaction, and relationships. Beyond the issue of language, the list of proposals—the culmination of more than two years of dedicated effort by SDWG, other Working Groups, the six Permanent Participants (Arctic Indigenous organizations), and Indigenous Knowledge holders—was underwhelming. It prioritized technical and bureaucratic guidelines over meaningful guidance for engaging with diverse ways of knowing.

Permanent Participant Recommendations

Indigenous Knowledge is not simply a source of data for extraction, though many researchers have approached it as such. Rather, it represents holistic, relationship-focused, and place-based ways of knowing—including what Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Alaska president James Stotts called, ‘the culture behind the knowledge’. In 2011, the ICC, a Permanent Participant at the Arctic Council, offered a method to apply Indigenous Knowledge in the Council. Other Permanent Participants reiterated and expanded upon the ICC’s proposal at a 2014 meeting in Ottawa, presenting 13 principles for the inclusion, promotion, and use of Indigenous Knowledge to ‘address a collective need to produce information … of use to Arctic Indigenous peoples, decision makers, and scientists of all cultures from a community level to international governments’. These principles call for respect, trust, and understanding. They also raise critical questions about the ownership of published material, appropriate methods for engaging with knowledge holders, community verification of information, mutual exchange of knowledge, and costs and benefits to communities.”

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