Traditional Knowledge

Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge and practices of indigenous and local communities that have developed over centuries and are traditionally transferred from elders to young people in concrete working and life situations. Traditional knowledge is dynamic and it can be transferred and expressed orally, through stories, legends, rituals, songs and laws. It can also be preserved in artifacts handed from father to son or mother to daughter.

Bruce_traditional_knowledge_Yamal.jpgThe indigenous people have knowledge and understanding of their environment and ecosystems and ways how to use and manage them. Often this knowledge is very particular and detailed. In recent years traditional knowledge has been increasingly considered alongside scientific knowledge within the context of research and conservation efforts related to Arctic peoples and nature.

Is traditional knowledge threatened?

One of the challenges facing the Indigenous knowledge is how to maintain and transfer it to the future generations? How one learns is as important as what one learns. Young people of today do not have concrete possibilities to take part in all seasonal subsistence activities. Parts of the traditional knowledge have faded since it is no longer needed among the younger generation and even if a younger member of the society shows interest in maintaining the traditional knowledge they might still lack the necessary practical ingredient.

Another challenge is how to integrate TEK into the modern educational, scientific, administrative, juridical, political, and resource-management regimes and structures.

Collecting traditional knowledge, using it and handling the materials

Living Sami traditional knowledge relating to reindeer herding was collected and recorded in Arctic Centre’s project Sami traditional knowledge and environmental decision making. The video materials were shot while collecting data that contains living Sami cultural heritage. Important part of the project was to give back the documents of the traditional knowledge to the local communities. See the videos from present day reindeer herding work and handling of the reindeer meat.

Information sources and more reading

Traditional knowledge encompasses concepts including: traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous knowledge, local knowledge and traditional medicine.