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“We Might Go Back to This”; Drawing on the Past to Meet the Future in Northwestern North American Indigenous Communities

Nancy Turner, University of Victoria
Pamela R. Spalding, University of Victoria


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Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) systems are as important today for the survival and well-being of many indigenous peoples as they ever were. These ways of knowing have much to contribute at a time of marked climate change. As indigenous peoples have sustained exposure to natural resources and phenomena in particular places over time, they are privy to the cumulative knowledge on the location and timing of a host of significant environmental events and processes. Not only do their intimate experiences of seasonal weather conditions, tides and currents, species, and environmental indicators contribute to a better understanding of the nature, rate, and intensity of climate change, but TEK systems can potentially contribute to more effective planning and decision making regarding resilience and adaptation to climate change. Furthermore, the values of respect and recognition of kinship with other species that are often embodied in these systems can serve to remind all of us about the imperative to conserve and protect these other species if we are to survive as humans. We identify some of the more obvious areas where TEK systems can provide important insights for climate change planners in British Columbia, Canada as well as some of the potential challenges to attempting to integrate TEK into mainstream planning for climate change.

Key words

applying indigenous knowledge; climate change planning; indigenous values; resilience; traditional ecological knowledge

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087