Indigenous Traditional Knowledge Systems and Worldviews
Indigenous peoples who have close relationships with the land are keen observers of the natural environment due to their reliance on it for economic, cultural, social and subsistence ways of life. Extensive studies have been completed on the extent and intensity of land use by northern Indigenous people and their knowledge of such aspects as animal behaviour and biology harvested vegetation species and ecological relationships (ACIA, 2004; Watson et al., 2003; Ashford and Castleden, 2001; Moller et al., 2004). Other studies have been completed for Indigenous communities in the southern regions of Canada that have identified similar issues. Indigenous people rely upon a complex set of indicators to illustrate the state and health of the natural environment and to enable them to operate within it (Fenge, 2001). The relationship with the environment and its associated set of indicators is Traditional Knowledge that is passed on through generations. Traditional Knowledge (TK) of the land by Indigenous peoples was once dismissed by many experts as anecdotal and unreliable but is now broadly recognized as legitimate, accurate and useful. Federal statutes and international agreements, such as the 1997 Canada Oceans Act, Species at Risk Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Convention on Biological Diversity, The Arctic Council, The International Arctic Science Committee, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other United Nations bodies recognize and use Traditional Knowledge in reporting and decision making. Indigenous peoples repeatedly offer to share what they know of their environment with the hope and expectation that their observations will assist others to improve humanities engagement within the environment. Passing information and hunting-based skills from one generation to the next provides a partial picture of the past rarely provided by comprehensive scientific monitoring programs (Fenge, 2001). Traditional monitoring methods may be qualitative but they complement science-based approaches because they are founded on observations over long time periods, incorporate large sample sizes, are inexpensive, invite the participation of harvesters as researchers, and they sometimes act as checks for scientifically observed resource and ecosystem change. Federal and Provincial strategies for adaptation measures for the protection and preservation of non-Indigenous communities cultural knowledge will be ineffective and insufficient to protect the Traditional Knowledge of Indigenous peoples.