Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify Our Methods

Jay Johnson
Richard Howitt
Gregory Cajete
Fikret Berkes
Renee Pualani Louis
Andrew Kliskey
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Indigenous and sustainability sciences have much to offer one another regarding the identification of techniques and methods for sustaining resilient landscapes. Based upon the literature, and our findings, it is evident that some Indigenous peoples have maintained distinct systematic, localized, and place-based environmental knowledge over extended time periods. These long-resident knowledge systems contain extensive information regarding not only how to maintain but also to steward biodiverse ecosystems. We believe these kinds of Indigenous observations and perspectives are critical for establishing or expanding collaborations with sustainability scientists.

Fikret Berkes observed in his foundational text, Sacred Ecology, a “growing interest in traditional ecological knowledge since the 1980s is perhaps indicative of two things: the need for ecological insights from indigenous practices of resource use, and the need to develop a new ecological ethic in part by learning from the wisdom of traditional knowledge holders”. The primary focus is an exploration of the intersection of Indigenous and sustainability sciences. We challenged key thinkers in these research areas to cultivate mutually conducive and appropriate principles, protocols, and practices that address humanity’s collective need to sustain landscapes that demonstrate the ability not only to maintain human life but more crucially the interrelated more-than-human biosphere. The authors were asked to address the strengths and limitations posed by both Indigenous and sustainability sciences in this endeavor. We also encouraged discussion concerning how these two scientific paradigms might collaborate, acknowledging that protocols will need to be identified, or created, to enable successful collaborations. It is our hope to add to what Scholz and Steiner have identified as a scant literature documenting the benefits of transdisciplinary research.

This special edition was inspired by an internationally diverse set of Indigenous academics, community scholars and non-Indigenous academics who participated in a National Science Foundation funded workshop entitled Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences: Diversifying our Methods (WIS2DOM).