The wisdom and practices of native communities are expressed through stories, rituals, songs, art and hands-on, ecological practices on the land. Sharing this knowledge is critical for the resilience of biocultural systems.
What is it?
Traditional knowledge, also referred to as ‘indigenous’, ‘local’ or ‘cultural’ knowledge, has evolved over centuries, in specific ecological and linguistic contexts. Completely interconnected with and interdependent with their natural surroundings, indigenous communities have developed deeply complex understandings of the properties of plants and animals; the dynamics of ecosystems and how to manage them; and the nurturing and cultivation of both wild and domesticated sources of food and medicine. Revitalizing, sharing, valuing and applying this wisdom, both locally and globally is the aim of traditional knowledge transfer.
Why is it important?
It is estimated that Indigenous territories contain 80 percent of the earth’s remaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity ‘hotspots’. Traditional knowledge has evolved in parallel with these ecosystems, and it is critical to their survival. The multitude of native languages in Melanesia, for example, contain an enormous conceptual vocabulary directly relating to the region’s biocultural diversity, such as words describing the medicinal properties of plants and the behavior of animals; methods of sustainable resource management and food cultivation; and rich histories and cultural traditions. Traditional knowledge is valuable capital for native communities, and embodies ways of knowing that can teach the world about sustainability.
How is The Christensen Fund Involved?
The Christensen Fund values all ways of knowing, and is dedicated in particular to revitalizing local knowledge and bringing the expertise of native communities to a larger audience both within our regions of focus, and globally. Some of the ways that we contribute to the transfer of traditional knowledge include bringing indigenous farmers from different continents together to share strategies; investing in Indigenous ecological studies such as the Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Change Assessment; supporting graduate training and scholarships to empower Indigenous students; and investing in the arts and traditions of native communities to sustain inter-generational knowledge transfer and its integration with public school systems. We have also supported the establishment of an international center of excellence on traditional knowledge – the United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Institute.