Indigenous Traditional Environment Knowledge

The term Indigenous traditional environmental knowledge is a generalization used to represent earth-based philosophies and practices of Indigenous cultures.  Traditional environmental knowledge has many definitions, implicit and explicit, depending on its application, but at the most general level refers to a “way of knowing” (Aikenhead, 2006) the environment and relationships to the environment by Indigenous Peoples worldwide.   Ancestral knowledge is an integral part of traditional environmental knowledge as an influence on subsequent generations in understanding and interacting with the natural world.  Gregory Cajete describes traditional education as occurring through a theology of nature (Cajete, 1994, p. 86).   He explains,

For Indigenous people around the world, education in Nature is life.  For Native people throughout the Americas, the paradigm of thinking, acting, and working evolved through their established relationships to Nature.  The foundation, expression, and context of Indigenous education were environmental… The environment was not something separate from their lives, but was the context, the set of relationships, that connected everything.  An understanding of ecology was not something apart from themselves or outside their intellectual reality, but the center and generator of self-understanding.  As a center, that environmental process of education became the guiding mechanism for the ways they expressed themselves and their sense of sacredness. (Cajete, 1994, pp. 87-88)

The current theoretical literature available on Indigenous traditional environmental knowledge systems stems from a few scholars worldwide.  Included in this list are Gregory Cajete and Glen Aikenhead.  Other scholars have written more specifically about self-determination in Aboriginal education but describe earth-based philosophies as the foundation of Aboriginal education (Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Smith, 1999; Hampton, 1995; Deloria Jr. & Wildcat, 2001).  Scholars have illustrated differences between Indigenous paradigms of education and Eurocentric ideology governing education.   There are few published scholarly resources that describe environmental philosophies of specific Aboriginal nations in Canada.



Aikenhead, G. (2006). Towards Decolonizing the Pan-Canadian Science Framework. Retrieved 2008 йил 13-April from University of Saskatchewan:

Battiste, M., & Henderson, J. (. (2000). Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing Ltd.

Cajete, G. (1994). Look to the Mountain. Skyland: Kivaki Press.

Deloria Jr., V., & Wildcat, D. R. (2001). Power and Place. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Resources.

Hampton, E. (1995). Towards a redefinition of indian education. In M. Battiste, & J. Barman, First nations education in canada: the circle unfolds (pp. 5-46). vancouver: ubc press.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press.


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