OOS 29-3
Tribal knowledge systems: Observations, harvesting, and use of soil-based resources

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 2:10 PM
327, Baltimore Convention Center
Frank K. Lake, Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Orleans, CA

Many indigenous people consider “Mother Earth” to be alive and sacred. The foundation of this philosophy is based upon long-term intergenerational relationships with soil-based resources. Traditional knowledge and resource harvesting systems of tribes across North America have grown from complex relationships with fungi, plants, and animals, as well as a deep-time understanding of soil properties affected by water and fire as influential ecological processes. The complexity of traditional knowledge integrates the meta-physical with the bio-physical to form the basis of stewardship and sustainable harvesting practices that nurture and replenish soil-based resources. Many tribes have traditional knowledge about how climate has and is changing valued resources derived from their long-term dependence on soil productivity. Additionally, how can this knowledge coupled with harvesting practices contribute types of information about the resiliency and vulnerability of soil-based resources from climate driven changes?  This presentation will share and discuss several examples of how American Indian tribal knowledge and harvesting of soil-based resources can provide a finer-scale understanding of climate change at local levels for a variety of habitats and ecosystems. Examples for tribal harvesting of soil-dependent fungi, plants and animals, use of fire for managing resources, and observations of how water, fire, and nutrients affect soil-based resources will be provided.


Tribal understanding of soil-based resources can be instructive to Climate science efforts. Tribal knowledge is often “cause and effect” based on cumulative observations and holistic understanding of factors affecting soil conditions. Western scientific knowledge of soil resources is often based on examination of the “mechanisms” derived from experimental manipulation, modeling, as well as guided by field-based observations. Both forms of knowledge are needed to address and determine what “resilience” and “vulnerability” are for resources in the context of how climate change is affecting soil-based resources. The presentation will conclude with discussion of how traditional knowledge and western science can identify climate related threats and stressors to soil resources, inform and guide the development of mitigation approaches, coping mechanisms, and for formulating climate change adaptation strategies.