Traditional ecological knowledge
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TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE. “Traditional knowledge is complementary to western science, not a replacement for it” -David Suzuki. Introduction.

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Traditional ecological knowledge

“Traditional knowledge is complementary to western science, not a replacement for it”

-David Suzuki


  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) represents experience acquired over thousands of years of direct human contact with the environment. The term TEK came into use in the 1980’s, the practice of TEK is as old as ancient hunter-gatherer cultures. The earliest studies of TEK were done by anthropologists. In addition, the study of traditional ecological knowledge is valued in a number of fields.

Defining traditional ecological knowledge
Defining Traditional Ecological Knowledge

  • There is no universally accepted definition of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)

  • As a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with the environment.

  • (Berkes 1993; Gadgil et al. 1993; Berkes et al. 1995)

Traditional ecological knowledge

  • It is an attribute of societies with historical continuity in resource use on a particular land. These are non-industrial or less technologically orientated societies, many of them indigenous or tribal, but not exclusively so.

  • (Ex. Non-indigenous groups, such as inshore cod fishers of Newfoundland)

Local vs indigenous knowledge
Local vs. Indigenous Knowledge

  • “Local knowledge” may also be a term of choice. The term local knowledge doesn’t convey the ecological aspect of the concept. Therefore, local knowledge may be used when referring to recent knowledge, or non-traditional knowledge.

  • The term “Indigenous knowledge” is more broadly defined as the local knowledge held by indigenous peoples or local knowledge unique to a given culture or society.

Traditional ecological knowledge

TEK differs from scientific ecological knowledge in a number of ways:

  • TEK is mainly qualitative (as opposed to quantitative)

  • TEK has an intuitive component (as opposed to being purely rational)

  • TEK is holistic

  • In TEK, mind and matter are considered together (as opposed to separation)

  • TEK is moral (as opposed to supposedly value-free)

Traditional ecological knowledge

  • TEK is spiritual of ways:

  • TEK is based on empirical observations and accumulation of facts by trial and error (as opposed to experimentation and systematic, deliberate accumulation of act)

  • TEK is based on data generated by resource users themselves (as opposed to that of specialized researchers)

  • TEK is based on long time-series on information on one locality (as opposed to short time-series over a large area)

Traditional ecological knowledge practices in nanaimo
Traditional Ecological Knowledge practices in Nanaimo of ways:

  • Harewood Plains Environmentally Sensitive Areas Project

  • Ecotrust Canada (involvement with trolling practices in Nanaimo)

  • Nanaimo Bird Alert

  • Nanaimo Sustainable Aquaculture Committee

Limitations in using tek for natural resource management
Limitations in using TEK for Natural Resource Management of ways:

  • There are the linked problems of a general world-wide disappearance of TEK and lack of resources to document it.

  • There are the practical problems of reconciling two world-views and trying to translate ideas and concepts from one culture to another.


Traditional ecological knowledge

  • Cultural barriers and misunderstandings sometimes prevent both Western scientists and indigenous peoples from fully acknowledging the value of each other’s knowledge system.

  • Limitations to the systematic use of TEK in resource management can be further examined from both a scientific and an indigenous point of view.

Conclusion both Western scientists and indigenous peoples from fully acknowledging the value of each other’s knowledge system.

  • A new found awareness of TEK in mainstream western society can enhance our appreciation of the cultures that hold this knowledge.

  • The recording of such knowledge is a significant tool towards social change

  • Indigenous peoples and the knowledge held by them do have something to contribute to many categories: biological, ecological insights, the knowledge base for resource management, conservation and development planning.

Citations both Western scientists and indigenous peoples from fully acknowledging the value of each other’s knowledge system.

  • Berkes, F. 1999. Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia

  • Berkes, F. 1993. Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases (J. T. Inglis, ed.). Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Nature and the International Development Research Centre, 1-9.

  • Berkes, F. 1995. Traditional ecological knowledge, biodiversity, resilience and sustainability. In Biodiversity Conservation (C. Perrings, K.-G. Maler, C. Folke, C.S. Holling, and B.-O. Jansson, eds.) Dordrecht: Kluwer, 281-99.

  • Devin, Sarah. "Traditional ecological knowledge in parks management: A Canadian perspective." Environments 322004 47-69. Oct. 12, 2007 < >.

  • Gadgil, M. 1993. Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio 22: 155-156

  • Johnson, M., ed. 1992. Lore, Capturing Traditional Environmental Knowledge. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.