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Weaving Indigenous and sustainability sciences to diversify our methods

Author(s): Jay T. Johnson, Richard Howitt, Gregory Cajete, Fikret Berkes, Renee Pualani Louis, Andrew D. Kliskey
Year Published: 2016

Indigenous and sustainability sciences have much to offer one another regarding the identification of techniques and methods for sustaining resilient landscapes. Based upon the literature, and our findings, it is evident that some Indigenous peoples have maintained distinct systematic, localized, and place-based environmental knowledge over extended time periods.1 These long-resident knowledge systems contain extensive information regarding not only how to maintain but also to steward biodiverse ecosystems. For example, the Nisqually Tribe of western Washington State, USA blends various aspects of ecological science with their Indigenous knowledge to support the restoration and management of the Nisqually river system watershed along with its associated natural resources of biological and cultural significance. We believe these kinds of Indigenous observations and perspectives are critical for establishing or expanding collaborations with sustainability scientists.

Fikret Berkes observed in his foundational text, Sacred Ecology, a “growing interest in traditional ecological knowledge since the 1980s is perhaps indicative of two things: the need for ecological insights from indigenous practices of resource use, and the need to develop a new ecological ethic in part by learning from the wisdom of traditional knowledge holders” (2012: 19). The primary focus of the papers in this special edition of Sustainability Science, including this editorial introduction, is an exploration of the intersection of Indigenous and sustainability sciences. We challenged key thinkers in these research areas to cultivate mutually conducive and appropriate principles, protocols, and practices that address humanity’s collective need to sustain landscapes that demonstrate the ability not only to maintain human life but more crucially the interrelated more-than-human biosphere. The authors were asked to address the strengths and limitations posed by both Indigenous and sustainability sciences in this endeavor. We also encouraged discussion concerning how these two scientific paradigms might collaborate, acknowledging that protocols will need to be identified, or created, to enable successful collaborations. It is our hope that this special edition might add to what Scholz and Steiner (2015) have identified as a scant literature documenting the benefits of transdisciplinary research.

This special edition was inspired by an internationally diverse set of Indigenous academics, community scholars and non-Indigenous academics who participated in a National Science Foundation funded workshop entitled Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences: Diversifying our Methods (WIS2DOM).2 The next three sections of this introduction are abbreviated versions of the workshop’s three keynote presentations on sustainability science, Indigenous science, and the protocols for bridging these two scientific paradigms.3 We then present our findings and recommendations regarding how Indigenous and sustainability sciences may find common ground upon which to collaborate, ending with an introduction to the papers in this special edition.

Citation: Johnson JT, Howitt R, Cajete G, Berkes F, Louis RP, Kliskey A. 2016. Weaving Indigenous and sustainability sciences to diversify our methods. Sustainability Science 11 (1): 1–11.
Topic(s): Fire & Traditional Knowledge
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18879
Record updated: Feb 12, 2019