OOS 27-2
Climate change, water and traditional ecological knowledge in the southwest: Culturally-relevant, transciplinary science curriculum

Thursday, August 8, 2013: 1:50 PM
101A, Minneapolis Convention Center
Octaviana V. Trujillo, Northern Arizona University

The skills, techniques, and extensive knowledge of the local environment that indigenous communities have accumulated over many generations—often yet unknown to modern science—makes traditional knowledge critical to advancing sustainable environmental practices, not only for those indigenous communities, but for the global community as well. Understanding how to effectively conserve and utilize traditional knowledge is an important part of the mission of Tohono O’odham Community College, a tribal college, and the Applied Indigenous Studies department at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Undergraduate science curriculum designed to be relevant to the culture of Native students is essential for developing the local experts and scientifically-literate populace needed to address scientific challenges faced by Native communities. Faculty members Teresa Newberry (TOCC) and Octaviana V. Trujillo (NAU) developed a teaching module on water issues impacted by climate change that incorporates traditional O’odham knowledge of water.


At Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC), , the science curriculum has been developed under the premise that science is part of the cultural heritage of each student, as every culture has relied upon processes for gathering and making meaning of information about the natural world (Traditional Ecological Knowledge or TEK).  A cornerstone of TOCC’s science program is a course on Global Change Biology which bridges Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the area of climate change.  This course incorporates a module which was developed as part of a cross-institutional collaboration with Northern Arizona University and the CAMEL Project. Students learn about the traditional and modern uses of water by the Tohono O’odham Nation including Traditional Ecological Knowledge of water, climate and the natural world.  They also learn about predicted climate change impacts on water resources of the region and apply that knowledge to identifying potential impacts on water use of the O’odham.  Using a model that incorporates elder, water policy, climate change science, students will develop water policy scenarios, adaptation plans and tribal resolutions addressing climate change impacts on the water resources on southwestern tribal lands.