Welcome to the IPRN Web Resource Center
On behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (a working group of the Society for Ecologial Restoration International), I welcome you to our new website resource center. When I first began working, as a native person, in what could be broadly characterized as “eco-cultural” restoration, there was little apparent interest on the part of ecological restorationists and scientists in indigenous knowledge, or what we now call Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). But we have experienced in the last ten or so years a sudden and growing interest by Western science in TEK. New books and papers on the subject—generally written by non-indigenous scholars—appear frequently, and in ever increasing numbers.
While Western science is a powerful and successful methodology within its proper sphere—quantitative analysis—other valid epistemologies such as TEK offer complementary approaches to understanding the natural world and our relationship to that world with which we have co-evolved since time out of mind. TEK is a place based knowledge-belief-practice complex of ancient lineage. For example, indigenous societies with a memory of past environmental conditions were the first to see the results of global climate change in their local homelands, and sounded the alarm before the larger global scientific community reached a consensus on the negative effects of climate change. The ever increasing rate of species extinctions—some like the crash of Atlantic cod or arctic musk ox which caught scientists off guard—has brought more attention to peoples who depend daily and directly on their immediate environment and consequently have an unsurpassed knowledge of the lifeways and habitats of numerous animals and fisheries. So it is not so surprising that more and more scientists have become interested in long-term and detailed environmental information which is the product of the observations of uncounted generations of native peoples in one place.
Unfortunately, even while interest in TEK is growing, indigenous peoples are experiencing a cultural crisis of unprecedented dimensions, brought on by the blind forces of market globalization: loss of land, knowledge, and languages. The survival of TEK—a living library residing in the hearts and minds of native peoples—is tied directly to the survival of indigenous cultures. TEK is entirely dependent on the continuance or restoration of traditional land based cultural practices.
The survival of those cultural practices requires a large degree of tribal control over the management of ancestral lands and resources (e.g. co-management of ancestral lands currently administered solely by public lands agencies and access to traditional hunting, fishing, gathering places). Too often indigenous peoples are excluded form national parks and reserves where they have been caregivers for centuries. The other side of the coin is the need for financial, scientific, and technical assistance to tribal restoration efforts in the face of unprecedented environmental degradation and cultural loss.
The World Conservation Union estimates that tribal peoples occupy over 80% of the world’s biological “hotspots”. Locally adapted cultural diversity goes hand in hand with biological diversity. Together they constitute ecocultural diversity. IPRN supports ecocultural diversity by promoting a mutually beneficial working relationship between Western science and TEK. Between ecological restoration and indigenous cultural survival. Between nature and humans. What we are really restoring is our relationship with the places we live in and depend on as we learn, once again, how to be native to these places: to be caregivers to the land; to participate with our elder brothers and sisters, the plants and animals, in the spiritual and physical renewal of the earth and of ourselves.
Lastly, let me thank the Leslie Jones Foundation whose generous support made this resource center possible.
-Dennis Martinez, Chair of the IPRN, SER International