The Importance of Indigenous Knowledge in Curbing the Loss of Language and Biodiversity

By Benjamin T. Wilder, Carolyn O'Meara, Laurie Monti, and Gary Paul Nabhan
BioScience 66 (6): 499-509.
June 01, 2016

Biodiversity inventory, monitoring, and species-recovery efforts can be advanced by a dynamic collaboration of Western, citizen, and ethnoscience. Indigenous and local traditional knowledge of place-based biodiversity is perhaps the oldest scientific tradition on earth. We illustrate how an all taxa biodiversity inventory network of projects in collaboration with the Comcaac (Seri people) in northwestern Mexico is advancing not only biosystematics but also species recovery, habitat restoration, language conservation and maintenance, and the maintenance of traditional livelihoods. We encourage scientists to establish collaborations with indigenous and other place-based communities to better understand the wealth of knowledge held in local categorization systems. It is essential to not merely seek out one-to-one correspondences between Western and indigenous knowledge but also to recognize and respect the creative tensions among these different knowledge systems, because this is where the most profound insights and fruitful collaborations emerge.