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Quantitative, qualitative, and collaborative methods: approaching indigenous ecological knowledge heterogeneity

Jeremy Spoon, Portland State University


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I discuss the use of quantitative, qualitative, and collaborative methods to document and operationalize Indigenous ecological knowledge, using case studies from the Nepalese Himalaya and Great Basin. Both case studies applied results to natural and cultural resource management and interpretation for the public. These approaches attempt to reposition the interview subjects to serve as active contributors to the research and its outcomes. I argue that the study of any body of Indigenous knowledge requires a context-specific methodology and mutually agreed upon processes and outcomes. In the Nepalese Himalaya, I utilized linked quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how tourism influenced Sherpa place-based spiritual concepts, species, and landscape knowledge inside Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone. In this method, Sherpa collaborated in the development of the research questions, the design, and in the review of results. The research in the Great Basin employed collaborative qualitative methods to document Numic (Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone) ecological knowledge of federal lands within their ancestral territory and attempted to piece together fragmented and contested histories of place. In this method, Numic peoples collaborated on the development of research questions and design; however they also conducted most of the interviews. In both cases, I selected particular suites of methods depending on the context and created forums for the translation of this information to applied outcomes. The methods were also improved and innovated through praxis.

Key words

collaborative methods; Great Basin; Himalayas; Indigenous ecological knowledge; linked quantitative and qualitative methods; Numic peoples (Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone); Sherpa

Copyright © 2014 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