Indigenous Communities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change: Impacts, Mitigation, Adaptation and Education
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
101A, Minneapolis Convention Center
David Blockstein, National Council for Science and Environment
Ronald A. Trosper, University of Arizona
Climate change is already affecting indigenous communities. We use case studies, including from the Southwest, upper Midwest and Alaska to show how indigenous communities are responding and adapting. Education is a key component of adaptation. Culturally relevant approaches, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) can help communities to adapt. Climate change education that uses TEK can engage Native American and non-indigenous students. The Climate Adaptation and Mitigation E-Learning (CAMEL) web resource at www.CAMELclimatechange.org developed through a partnership between the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC),contains resources to help educators and students understand these relationships and help provide climate solutions.
The education of future Native American scientists requires an educational context that supports the traditions, knowledge, and language(s) of Native communities as the starting place for learning new ideas and knowledge. Native American students are more academically successful in science courses that leverage their often-extensive existing foundation of knowledge about the natural world (Traditional Ecological Knowledge or TEK). Curriculum with a Native American ‘viewpoint’ is not merely a better vehicle to teach mainstream science. Rather, it provides students with the meaningful connections to science that make them rethink their own career choices, perhaps helping them reconsider an area they prematurely foreclosed upon because they didn’t believe they had the ability to do well. The most significant impact of culturally centered science curricula is on the future scientist or researcher, who begins as an undergraduate to form the cultural framework from which he or she will someday select research interests, questions, and methods. There is a firm belief within most Native tribal communities and professional Native educators that cultural context is essential if students are to succeed academically and to build meaningful lives.
Conversely, American Indians have much to contribute to CCE for non-Native American populations. Because of their distinctive perspectives, American Indian scholars can offer significant new dimensions to CCE. American Indians have a long term view of the world that is essential for understanding climate change and its multi-generational impacts. TEK is a powerful way of seeing the world and of observing environmental changes that are not always easily detectable by western science. Traditional cultural perspectives have much to contribute to helping all people to understand how the world is changing and what the consequences may be. This multidisciplinary approach is very appealing to many students.