Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management

Excerpt

Charles R.Menzies Caroline Butler

From before the time Raven stole the sun and shed light on the world below, the Gitxaała people have lived in their territories along the north coast of British Columbia. Gitxaała laws (Ayaawk) and history (Adaawk) describe in precise detail the relationships of trust, honor, and respect that are appropriate for the well-being and continuance of the people and, as importantly, define the rights of ownership over land, sea, and resources within the territory. However, since the arrival of the first Ḵ'mksiwah (European) in Gitxaała territory in the late 1700s, new forms of resource extraction and expropriation have appeared that ignored, demeaned, and displaced the importance of the Ayaawk and Adaawk in managing the Territory of the Gitxaała. The new industries—forestry, fishing, and mining—relied almost completely upon Ḵ'mksiwah science for the purposes of management and regulation.

One of the major failures of mainstream resource management has been a lack of attention to the long-term implications of resource extraction practices. This has led to spectacular cases of resource depletion and habitat loss (see, for example, Rogers 1995). The local-level ecological knowledge held by people like the Gitxaała, rooted in an intimate and long-term involvement in local ecosystems, can be a crucial tool and source of knowledge for long-term sustainability and immediate resource conservation. During the last two decades the value of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), such as the Ayaawk and Adaawk of the Gitxaała, has been increasingly recognized as important (Battiste and Youngblood Henderson 2000; Griffith 1999; Sillitoe 1998).

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