Can Indigenous knowledge and Western science work together? New center bets yes

Article by Jeffrey Mervis: “For millennia, the Passamaquoddy people used their intimate understanding of the coastal waters along the Gulf of Maine to sustainably harvest the ocean’s bounty. Anthropologist Darren Ranco of the University of Maine hoped to blend their knowledge of tides, water temperatures, salinity, and more with a Western approach in a project to study the impact of coastal pollution on fish, shellfish, and beaches.

But the Passamaquoddy were never really given a seat at the table, says Ranco, a member of the Penobscot Nation, which along with the Passamaquoddy are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy of tribes in Maine and eastern Canada. The Passamaquoddy thought water quality and environmental protection should be top priority; the state emphasized forecasting models and monitoring. “There was a disconnect over who were the decision-makers, what knowledge would be used in making decisions, and what participation should look like,” Ranco says about the 3-year project, begun in 2015 and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Last month, NSF aimed to bridge such disconnects, with a 5-year, $30 million grant designed to weave together traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and Western science. Based at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst, the Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS) aims to fundamentally change the way scholars from both traditions select and carry out joint research projects and manage data…(More)”.

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