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Gathering, processing and preser vi ng of Aboriginal Trad it ional Knowledge (ATK) – Another perspective. Maliseet Nation Conservation Council. Is there a perfect definition for Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK)?.

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Gathering, processing and preserving of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) – Another perspective

Maliseet Nation Conservation Council

Is there a perfect definition for Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK)?

ATK is the information passed from generation to generation, rooted in many ways including storytelling, ceremonies, traditions, ideologies, medicines, dances, arts and crafts or a combination of all these

ATK symbolizes cultural identity of First Nations: it is an expression of First Nations/nature relationship

ATK for conservation of Species at Risk (SAR)

Species at Risk Act (SARA) identifies the requirement to utilize Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) in all three phases of the process.

  • Species assessment
  • Listing of species under SARA
  • Formulation of recovery/management plans
Previous ATK experiences of the group: problems encountered????

Time to share your experience with the group!!!

2. Formulation and implementation of the communication strategy

1. Defining the project scope and obtaining necessary approvals

3. Defining and implementation of the ethics process

Planning and designing – Traditional knowledge study

8. ATK reporting

4. ATK collection design

7. Storage and protection of traditional knowledge

5. Gathering ATK by conducting interviews

6. ATK Debrief

Defining the scope of the project and obtaining necessary approvals
  • Purpose of the research
  • Types of information being sought
  • Communication of the purpose and the scope of the work to the community leadership
Communication strategy

Project staff

Ensure that the ownership of the information will remain with the knowledge holder

Methodology – protection of information


How to review and report information

Information being sought


Above information should be relayed to each community – advertisements, community websites, newsletters, open houses, workshops etc.

Project approval

Project approval process differs from one community to another

In Maliseet communities – Maliseet Traditional Knowledge (MTK) protocol

MTK protocol follows the research principals adopted by OCAP

OCAP Principles and Protocols provide a prescribed approval process for collection; analysis and reporting of research data generated from Indigenous communities

Maliseet Research Review Board

Comprised of a group of Maliseet people

They are recognized for their knowledge and expertise in research ethics, Maliseet history and cultural heritage

Review research principals of the proposal

Maliseet Ethics Guidelines

Maliseet Ethics Guidelines – identify approved research principles and methods

Provide proper procedures for – collection; analysis and reporting of research data generated from Maliseet communities

MRRB pays attention over

Communication strategy

Information gathering


ATK and confidentiality

Following can be used to obtain approval from community leadership.

  • Be it resolved that the ______________ First Nation agrees to participate in a species status assessment study of the ______________ by providing ATK and supports the following provisions regarding confidentiality of the information generated by the study: No person(s) may view a participant's individual information or listen to a participant's interview recording(s) without the individual’s written permission. The only exception to this pertains to people hired by _________________ to work on the project.
  • All persons hired by _________________ to conduct interviews or to process the information are bound by legal contract to abide by the rules of confidentiality.
  • Access to the original interview notes or recordings will be strictly controlled by _________________. The information will be used only for the purpose of conservation and management of ______________ and Aboriginal access to the ______________ as a resource, and for developing educational material.
  • The final report prepared for COSEWIC or any other government agency will not reveal the names of any participants in the study without their written permission.
  • Be it also resolved that this ATK study and all discussions and correspondence pursuant to it are not intended to recognize, deny, create, define, alter or affect Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal title, treaty rights or other legal rights, or to be construed as an interpretative aid in the determination of any such legal right. Be it also resolved that participation by Aboriginal people in this study is not, and should not be construed as, consultation.
Ethical requirements

Consent of elder/knowledge holder

Specifics of the traditional knowledge study

Purpose of the study

Use of the traditional knowledge that are collected

Non-derogation clause stating that the traditional knowledge study is not consultation for the purposes of justifying an infringement on Aboriginal and Treaty rights

Where and how the knowledge will be stored

Make it clear that the information is intellectual property of the knowledge holder and it will be held in trust by the person or organization conducting the study

How the knowledge will be protected

How the knowledge will be reviewed and reported 

Types of traditional knowledge

Conservation of Species at Risk (SAR):

For assessment and management of the Atlantic salmon population in the St. John river, NB

Following information can be gathered

1. Biology and Life cycle

  • The current presence of salmon in different parts and tributaries of the river
  • Areas where salmon disappeared and have come back again
  • Historical presence in tributaries/parts of the river where they no longer occur
Migration patterns and seasonal fluctuations
  • Food sources and predation
  • Current health condition and issues (body fat, parasites, diseases) 

2. Habitat characteristics

  • Characteristics of the seasonal habitats of salmon
  • Characteristics of the life stage/area specific habitats
  • Changes in habitat over time

3. Current and historical fishing for salmon in the river

  • Current/historical catch and effort of the salmon fishery
  • Harvesting techniques, seasons and locations
  • Species and size compositions of current/historical catches
3. Significance of Atlantic salmon
  • Uses (food, medicine, cultural, other)
  • Significance of salmon to the culture, tradition and practices of Maliseet people

4. Potential threats

  • Residential and commercial development
  • Agriculture and aquaculture
  • Energy production and mining
  • Transportation/service corridors
  • Biological resource use
  • Human intrusions/disturbances
  • Natural system modifications
  • Invasive and other problematic species
  • Pollution
  • Geological events, climate change and severe weather
Consistency and accuracy

1. Consistency

  • Team
  • Regional level

2. Data accuracy

  • Precise questions
  • Detailed and accurate recording
  • Accurate data processing
  • Accurate unbiased reporting
Study area and sample

1. Study area

  • Communities
  • On/off reserve

2. Sample

  • Sample size
  • Representative sample
  • Known active hunters/fishers
  • Knowledgeable elders
  • Age/gender specific
Relevant time frame
  • Personal experience/eye witness account (hunting/fishing)
  • Living memory (Long-term changes: environment, species abundance, behaviour, status of populations)
  • Oral traditions (cultural significance, legends)
ATK collection design

It can be individual sessions, group sessions or both

Important to make youth part of the collection design

  • To make youth interested about the process
  • To transfer knowledge from one generation – another
ATK interview methodology
  • Offer a culturally significant gift if it is appropriate
  • Assigning a PIN (Participant Identification Number)
  • Objectives of the study
  • Resolution – confidentiality
  • Purpose of signing consent – release form
  • Completed release forms are confidential – should be secured
  • Begin the interview
ATK recording practices

Use PIN to identify interviews and all resulting data products (notes of the interviewer, audio recordings, map overlays, consent forms)

It helps effective processing, archiving and future retrieval of data

PIN ties interviewer to various products

How to assign an individual/group PIN?

PIN consists of 2 parts

One or more capital letters

A number

Each traditional knowledge field worker is identified by a single capital letter

Interviews conducted by one interviewer

Participant Identification Numbers (PIN) are assigned in accordance with the interview order

The first person, Stuart interviews=S1, second person=S2

Interviews conducted by more than one interviewer

Assign PIN identifying letter descriptors of both field workers

The first person Stuart interviewed with Rebecca=SR1, second person=SR2, third person=SR3

Who is the lead interviewer? Rebecca or Stuart?

How do you explain following PINs –AR4 andSA3?

Assign PINs for

15th person interviewed by Stuart

3rd person interviewed by Allen with Rebecca

22nd person interviewed by Stuart, Allen and Rebecca

How do we use PIN?

One interviewee is assigned only one PIN

One to one interviews, each participant is assigned a PIN; group interviews – each group is assigned a PIN

PIN is used to label all the research products – data sheets, audio recordings, maps etc.

Type of the study can also be identified by PIN

Suitable for organizations that conduct different types of studies – historic, cultural, biological, environmental etc.

SAR-AS-001: Species at Risk, Atlantic salmon, interview number 001

It is possible to combine both approaches

Translating interviews

Record the interview in aboriginal first language

Submit both tapes to your project coordinator

Listen to the audio recording

Record it again

Translate the entire interview into English

Documenting name of a participant

If interviewee mentioned name of a different person – obtain first and last names of the person

Before the interview – Record participant’s name, PIN and the date of the interview on the first page of the questionnaire

Interview procedure

Prior to the interview, check your audio recorder

Begin the interview by introducing participant/group name – mention the PIN

“We are here at Philip Atwin’s home in Kingsclear to do an Atlantic salmon ATK interview with him. Today is October 15, 2012

My name is Stuart William. This is the interview session S12. I have reviewed the release form with Philip and he signed it. I am now beginning the interview”

To close the interview: repeat the same information

If another person joins later – mention his/her name and role

Turn off the recorder – traditional tape “cassette” recorder – remove the tab

Label each side of the cassette and cassette covers with the PIN

Record details of mapping sessions and cassette information on the questionnaire

Labeling cassettes

S12 Philip Atwin Salmon ATK 2012 October 15, 2012 1/2

How do you explain this?

If digital recorder is used – transfer digital recordings to your computer

Suitable file name – salmonATK2012_S11

When there are 2 files covering total interview –salmonATK2012_S11a and salmonATK2012_S11b

Keeping records

Questionnaire – an important official research record

Make sure

  • it is numbered
  • your name and contact number appear in front
  • all entries are in ink
It is important to maintain 2 lists
  • List of interviews completed
  • Updated list of audio recordings

Work with your supervisor to develop a method to organize this information

Audio recording list

Digital recording list

ATK debrief

A number of different but sensible answers – for certain questions

More than one correct answer for certain questions

ATK debrief is a useful mechanism to verify traditional knowledge gathered

ATK debrief

Traditional knowledge gathered during the study is reviewed with the help of...

  • Project staff
  • Knowledgeable elders
  • Experts

Traditional knowledge will be reviewed and debated to choose most suitable answer/answers for a particular question

ATK information storage

Duplicate raw data and store in 2 separate secure locations

Digitize all original materials

  • Completed hard copies of questionnaires
  • Field notes
  • Map overlays

Store originals and copies in separate locations

Temporary database to store qualitative/quantitative information – Excel spreadsheets

Later transfer data – permanent database

Keep up-to-date backup copies in a separate secure place

It is the responsibility of interviewers to...
  • Keep all raw data (maps, recordings, cassettes, interview notes, etc.)
  • Review them
  • Securely pass dully completed data files to the project coordinator

All copies should be transferred with due confidentiality

ATK reporting

It is necessary to take extra care during reporting phase of a traditional knowledge study

  • Once the information is presented it will become public
  • It may violate conditions in the contract (consent/release form)

Different ways to report – without identifying specific details

Reporting template – as a part of the communication strategy