OOS 30 - Building Epistemological Bridges: Indigenous Knowledge-Holders and Western Ecologists Seek to Resolve Philosophical Impasses and Find Common Ground for Collaborative Research In Cross-Cultural Dialogue

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
A107, Oregon Convention Center
Dennis Martinez, Indigenous Peoples Restoration Network
Terry Chapin, University of Alaska
Ronald L. Trosper, University of Arizona
Cross-cultural communications between Indigenous knowledge-holders and Western ecologists typically flounders on the Western nature-culture dichotomy. This is not just a philosophical impasse. Cultural misunderstandings can have serious real-life negative consequences for Indigenous peoples. Historically, forced dispossession of Indigenous homelands was—and still is—justified by the assumption that Natives were doing nothing to enhance the productivity of their lands. Today, removal of Indigenous peoples from their homelands to make way for conservation reserves is justified by the assumption that their continued presence is inimical to conservation. Both views assume Indigenous ecological incompetence and marginalize Native peoples. Too often, traditional peoples with centuries-long sustainable cultural practices are lumped together with non-traditional commercial poachers. Indeed, most ecologists unconsciously conflate Indigenous cultures with negative human activities in general, to give just one example of a philosophical chasm. This view results in large part from the Western separation of culture from nature and the artificial separation of “pristine” nature from its degradation by any human activities. It is reinforced by classical succession theory and the Western cultural bias that stable climax states are ecologically optimal. Current discussions about “novel” ecosystems assume the same separation of “wild” from human-dominated landscapes. In contrast, traditional Indigenous cultures are in the middle of a gradient ranging from wild autogenic nature to destructive human activities. Indigenous peoples with a long record of sustainable cultural practices have been so intertwined with nature for so long as keystone players in ecosystem dynamics that, when they are evicted from their homelands or marginalized, unanticipated negative cascading ecological events can occur that cross critical thresholds and flip ecosystems to unstable states, e.g. the suppression of Native burning has left ecosystems vulnerable to unstable states caused by catastrophic fires completely outside of known natural ranges of variability in their severity, frequency, and extent. We should view Indigenous cultural landscapes in much of the world as historical while viewing our recently degraded ones as novel—the opposite of the conventional views that consider novel ecosystems to be in the middle of the culture-nature continuum instead of traditional cultural landscapes. European settlement patterns were imposed on cultural, not natural landscapes, creating abiotic and biotic stresses to Indigenous cultural landscapes instead of to pristine nature in most biomes. Cultural landscapes require ongoing periodic human intervention while purely autogenic terrestrial systems are as rare as long-lived climax states. Ecosystem-based adaptation for Indigenous peoples requires maintaining historical cultural species through arrested succession.
1:50 PM
 Restoring cultural landscapes: Applying Hawaiian values in the twenty-first century
Peter M. Vitousek, Stanford University; Kamanamaikalani Beamer, Kamehameha Schools
2:30 PM
 Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and western science in the development of climate change action plans in the Pacific Islands region
Elisabeth A. Holland, University of the South Pacific; Sarah Hemstock, University of the South Pacific; Viliamu Iese, University of the South Pacific; Hélène Jacot Des Combe, University of the South Pacific; Aliti Koroi, University of the South Pacific; Leone Limalevu, University of the South Pacific; Karen McNamara, University of the South Pacific; Dan F. Ocherton, University of the South Pacific; Julianne Sutherland, University of the South Pacific; Morgan Wairiu, University of the South Pacific; Antoine De Ramon N'Yeurt, University of the South Pacific; In Country Coordinators, University of the South Pacific
3:10 PM
3:20 PM
 The role of tribes in off-reservation watershed planning and management: A nascent programmatic approach in California
Chuck Striplen, University of California, Berkeley/San Francisco Estuary Institute
3:40 PM
 Incorporating traditional ecological knowledge into geoscience education
Wendy Smythe, Oregon Health & Science University
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