When All Peoples Have the Same Story, Humans will Cease to Exist: Protecting and Conserving Traditional Knowledge

A Report for the Biodiversity Convention Office
Prepared for the Dene Cultural Institute
by: Aggie Brockman
with the assistance of Barney Masuzumi and Stephen Augustine
September, 1997

Traditional Knowledge has become acknowledged in the past 20 years as having great
potential to contribute to environmental conservation and management. Biological
diversity is increasingly recognized as interdependent with cultural diversity, which in
turn relies on traditional knowledge, the cornerstone for the cultural identity of
indigenous peoples.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge is a body of knowledge built up by a group of people
through generations of living in close contact with nature. Traditional Knowledge is
cumulative and dynamic. It builds upon the historic experiences of a people and adapts
to social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political change. The quantity and
quality of Traditional Knowledge differs among community members according to their
gender, age, social standing, profession and intellectual capabilities. While those
concerned about biological diversity will be most interested in knowledge about the
environment, this information must be understood in a manner which encompasses
knowledge about the cultural, economic, political and spiritual relationships with the land
(Brockman and Legat, 1995). “It provides a distinctive worldview of which outsiders are
rarely aware, and at best can only incompletely grasp” (Greaves 1996).

Defining Traditional Knowledge is the responsibility of First Nations and Inuit. It may
not be possible, or advisable for one definition to be adopted universally (Brooke 1993).
“It resists simple, abstract and objective definitions and focuses on inter-relatedness”
(Couture 1991 quoted in Friesen 1995).

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