Research Methodologies & Challenges

Indigenous knowledge settles question of a Bornean tree species: Study
By: Carolyn Cowan
June 17, 2022
Key words: Malaysian Borneo, Iban tribe, Dusun tribe, Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK), Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), tree diversity, tree genetics
Two trees the Iban and Dusun have always known to be distinct is confirmed in a recent genetic study. These two genetically distinct tree species set an excellent precedent for western scientists and IPLCs to collaborate, particularly in tropical biodiversity hotspots.

Gathering Explores the Intrinsic Value of Indigenous Knowledge
International Joint Commission (IJC)
April 2021
Key words:  Anishinaabe Nations of the Three Fires Confederacy, Saugeen Ojibway Nation, Bkejwanong, United Tribes of Michigan, Garden River First Nation, Okanagan Nation Alliance, the Great Lakes, Indigenous
The IJC hosted a two-day event titled Indigenous Knowledge Gathering. The purpose of this gathering was to encourage better ways of tribal and non-tribal collaboration for custodianship of transboundary waters. Protecting shared waters is a passion and point of importance from indigenous knowledge holders to academics to scientists. There have been tensions between these groups in the past. One of the goals of this gathering is to bring everyone together and have a place at the table. This is especially significant for indigenous peoples who have often been ignored. The event went well and everyone had the opportunity to share. This kind of sharing is only the start of what will hopefully be an ongoing effort at communication and collaboration.

Braiding Ways of Knowing
With: Dr. Robin Kimmerer, Dr. Nancy Turner, Dr. David Suzuki, Elder Dr. Dave Courchene Jr., Miles Richardson O.C.
Reconciling Ways of Knowing
September 24, 2020
Key words: Indigenous knowledge, western science, three sisters, epistemologies, colonization, plants, values, intergenerational knowledge sharing, ceremony, harvesting
This video presentation involves conversation between Robin Kimmerer and each of the other panelists with regard to Indigenous Knowledge and western science.

Informing decision-making with Indigenous and local knowledge and science
By: Helen C. Wheeler and Meredith Root-Bernstein
Sept. 4, 2020
Journal of Applied Ecology
Keywords: Governance, conservation, co-management, policy, decision-making, Indigenous knowledge
An overview of some of the issues arising when Western scientists try to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into their research, this article stresses the importance of interdisciplinarity in bridging the differences between knowledge systems. Discusses the benefits and challenges when scientists partner with local knowledge holders; presents criteria for evaluating knowledge; and evaluates existing modes of synthesis.

Collecting Oral Histories in Indian Country - Ep. 41
Heritage Voices
July 21, 2020
Key words: oral history, interviews, elders, intent, questions, cultural dynamics, reciprocity
This podcast is a discussion between Aaron Brien (Apsáalooke), a member of the Night Hawk Dance Society and faculty in Salish Kootenai College’s Tribal Historic Preservation and Native American Studies programs, and Dr. Shandin Pete (Salish/Diné), Director of the Indigenous Research Center at Salish Kootenai College, and facilitated by Jessica Yaquinto. Themes include gender, race, tribal citizenship, male-female dynamics, question development, intent, relationships, setting, cultural dynamics, timing.

Working with Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) in Large-scale Ecological Assessments: Reviewing the Experience of the IPBES Global Assessment
By: Pamela McElwee, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Yildiz Aumeeruddy-Thomas, Dániel Babai, Peter Bates, Kathleen Galvin, Maximilien Guèze, Jianguo Liu, Zsolt Molnár, Hien T. Ngo, Victoria Reyes-García, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Aibek Samakov, Uttam Babu Shrestha, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo S. Brondízio
Journal of Applied Ecology
June 9, 2020
Key words: Indigenous and local knowledge, co-production of knowledge, global assessments, IPBES, western science, social ecological assessment
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) performed a study about co-producing knowledge and using this information for ecological assessments. They identified needs for comprehensive data, inclusion and respect for Indigenous communities. This study is a literature review, which found a disparity in published peer-reviewed work from certain sectors of the world. The article contains several tables organizing their findings.

Connecting for Conservation Indigenous Approaches to Conservation (webinar)
Features: Dr. Dominique David-Chavez of the Native Nations Institute and Colorado State University, Dina Gilio-Whitaker of California State University San Marcos, and Dr. Clint Carroll of University of Colorado Boulder
Salazar Center
March 9, 2020
Key words: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, wilderness, decolonization, Indigenous
The speakers discuss decolonizing conservation, refuting wilderness, and involving Indigenous peoples in research projects. They communicate there is a Indigenous resurgence in relationships with the land, noting that Indigenous peoples view land beyond recreation. Each speaker also discusses his/her efforts in teaching a new generation of tribal environmental leaders.

Finally, Getting it Right: Incorporating the Indigenous Worldview
By: Mark Bellcourt
Oct. 9, 2019
Winds of Change
Keywords: Wild rice, Anishanaabe, White Earth Reservation, cultural sensitivity, relationship building
After decades of mistrust based on a lack of cultural sensitivity, researchers mend relationships with indigenous communities through listening. Traditional ways of knowing and Western science can be combined to the benefit of both. Researchers and administrators are realizing the value of cultural cooperation and changing the protocols under which research is conducted.

Research and Reconciliation: Unsettling Ways of Knowing Through Indigenous Relationships
Edited By: Shawn Wilson, Andrea V. Breen, and Lindsay DuPré
Canadian Scholars
Key words: Research, collaboration, methods, inclusion, engagement, Indigenous knowledge systems, global
This book is a collection of articles which focus on the methods that can be found in indigenous research through reconciliation. The collection of articles encourages a methodology that includes the participation of indigenous populations in research. It also focuses on the methods of which knowledge is transmitted that is not found in western cultures. This book emphasizes the use of story telling as a methodology for traditional knowledge research even at a global level.

Fishers’ Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) on Connectivity and Seascape Management
By: Charlotte Berkström, Myron Papadopoulos, Narriman Saleh Jiddawi, and Lina Mtwana Nordlund
Frontiers in Marine Science
March 22, 2019
Key words: Zanzibar, Tanzania, local ecological knowledge (LEK), conventional scientific knowledge (CSK), coastal fisheries, connectivity, collaboration
Interest in combining local and scientific knowledge for the management of small- and large-scale fisheries increases as marine coastal systems and fish stocks are negatively affected by large-scale, global human activity. A study in 2017 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which has a tropical marine coast, conducted over one hundred interviews in six different locations. The study found that LEK and CSK are highly complementary and can be combined for beneficial, collaborative work.

A global assessment of Indigenous community engagement in climate research
By: Dominique M. David-Chavez and Michael C. Gavin
Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 13
Key words: Research, collaboration, extractive methods, global, inclusion, engagement, Indigenous knowledge systems, paticipatory action, reciprocity, Indigenous research methods, ethics, transdisciplinary research
Researchers conducted a global review of literature in climate field studies which have made use of Indigenous knowledge in some way. They adapted a framework of community participation including five levels: “contractual,” “”consultative,” “collaborative,” “collegial,” and “Indigenous.” They found that 87% of these studies have minimally engaged with the communities who hold Indigenous knowledge, a practice that the authors call an “extractive model.” These studies’ outcomes do not typically benefit those communities or make findings easily accessible within them. The authors encourage future research to engage local communities and utilize transparent communication of research methods.

The Value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge for the Environmental Health Sciences and Biomedical Research
By: Symma Finnn,Mose Herne, and Dorothy Castille
Environmental Health Perspectives
August 29, 2017
Key words: Methodology, environmental health, TEK
The article discusses the importance of including TEK in western scientific methods.The article goes through and outlines a few of the issues that western science has as well as the benefits of including TEK. Through understanding of the complexity of TEK the authors are able to suggest the addition of TEK into western science.

Community focus is central to American Indians/Alaska Natives in NIH ethics training
By: Jeannine Mjoseth
June 5, 2017
Key words: Institutional Review Boards, human subjects research, tribal sovereignty
National Institutes of Health conducted an Institutional Review Board training for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Collaborative Research Approaches for Aligning Landscape Restoration, Climate Change, Wildland Fire Management Strategies
By: Frank K. Lake
National Forest Foundation
Key words: Multiple scales, tribal resource use, paleoclimate, LiDAR, adaptation, California
Presented at the Collaborative Restoration Workshop in Denver, CO at History Colorado. The presentation offers many considerations for working with tribes in co-management research. Specific examples are shown from the work of the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership in northern California.

A Classification of Threats to Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Conservation Responses
By: Ruifei Tang & Michael C. Gavin
Conservation and Society, 14(1):57-70
Key words: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, direct threat, underlying threat, TEK conservation, classification
Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) shapes human-environment interactions across much of the globe. Previous studies draw on diverse academic disciplines, each with a unique set of theoretical constructs and discipline-specific jargon. The lack of a standard lexicon for TEK threats and conservation actions impedes the comparative work needed to understand broad patterns of TEK degradation and implications for biodiversity conservation planning. Authors complete a literature review, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews on TEK and conservation to draw out conclusions.

Native Science: Understanding and Respecting Other Ways of Thinking
By: Linda Black Elk
February 2016
Keywords: Native science, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), respect, holistic, scientific method, ecological interrelatedness, dreams and visions, rangelands
Healthy rangelands are highly important to many Indigenous peoples for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes also called Native science, traditional ecological knowledge has insight into how to create and sustain rangelands. Part of this insight involves ecological interrelatedness as well as the incorporation of dreams and visions in the Native Science methodology. Holism, in theory and practice, and having a collaborative, reciprocal process will lead to a better understanding of rangelands.

Weaving Indigenous and sustainability sciences to diversify our methods
By: Jay T. Johnson, Richard Howitt, Gregory Cajete, Fikret Berkes, Renee Pualani Louis and Andrew Kliskey
Dec. 12, 2015
Sustainability Science
Keywords: climate change, sustainability science, ecosystems stewardship, Indigenous science, social and environmental justice, transdisciplinary, decolonizing research, resilient landscapes, co-production knowledge, bridging, participatory
This article discusses Indigenous science, western science, and how the two might be co-produced and bridged for better understanding and applicability for unanswered questions, like climate change. The authors frame the politics of science, epistemological differences, methodologies, and invites collaboration between Indigenous and western scientists to develop of best practices. The article then references other articles that follow in the magazine’s special edition.

The Ethics of Traditional Knowledge Exchange in Climate Change Initiatives
By: The Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup
July 31, 2015
Key words: Informed consent, misappropriation, right not to participate
This article is an overview of the reasons why the group developed their documents and website.

Bayesian Framework to Integrate Traditional Knowledge Into Ecological Modeling: A Case Study
By: Marc Girondot and Anna Rizzo
Journal of Ethnobiology
Keywords: French Guiana, ecological modeling, Bayesian statistics, Kali’na people, marine turtles, leatherback turtle, phenology
Researchers working in French Guiana questioned local fishermen about sea turtle nesting behavior, then used to Bayesian statistical modeling to transform the fishermen’s responses into data sets. This data was then compared to the researchers’ own observations. This study points toward a way of integrating TEK with scientific data, as well as discussing some of the difficulties and advantages.

Weaving Indigenous science, protocols and sustainability science
By: Whyte, K. P., Brewer, J. P., & Johnson, J. T.
Sustainability Science.
Key words: Reciprocity, guardianship, caretaking, stewardship, ethics, Indigenous Science, sustainability science, Meskawki, Anishinaabe, Traditional Ecological Knowledge
DOI: 10.1007/s11625-015-0296-6
The proceedings of the National Science Foundation supported WIS2DOM workshop state that sustainability scientists must respect the “protocols” of practitioners of Indigenous sciences if the practitioners of the two knowledge systems are to learn from each other. Indigenous persons at the workshop described protocols as referring to attitudes about how to approach the world that are inseparable from how people approach scientific inquiry; they used the terms caretaking and stewardship to characterize protocols in their Indigenous communities and nations. Yet sustainability scientists may be rather mystified by the idea of protocols as a necessary dimension of scientific inquiry. Moreover, the terms stewardship and caretaking are seldom used in sustainability science. In this case report, the authors seek to elaborate on some possible meanings of protocols for sustainability scientists who may be unaccustomed to talking about stewardship and caretaking in relation to scientific inquiry. To do so, the authors describe cases of Indigenous protocols in action in relation to scientific inquiry in two Indigenous-led sustainability initiatives in the Great Lakes/Midwest North American region.

Problems of Defining and Validating Traditional Knowledge: A Historical Approach
By: Kenichi Matsui
The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 6(2):2
Key words: Traditional Knowledge definition, knowledge validation
The United Nations’ agencies and many scholars have regarded traditional knowledge as an alternative to science for the purposes of managing the environment. Despite a large number of publications on traditional knowledge, there seems to be little consensus about the definition of what traditional knowledge is and how it can be useful for environmental management. This article first approaches this definition problem within a historical context, then discusses how traditional knowledge can be validated among parties with different interests so that traditional knowledge research and policy can be more effectively implemented in policy-making arenas.

‘Knowledge Making’: Issues in Modelling Local and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge
By: M. Barber & S. Jackson
Human Ecology, 43:119-130
Key words: Modelling, visualization, Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, causality, Indigenous Australian societies
Modelling, particularly computer-based modelling, is increasingly used in political, managerial, and scientific contexts to enable and justify decisions. Authors analyze one consequence of this situation-ongoing attempts to formalize, synthesize and integrate local and/or indigenous knowledge into models. To improve interdisciplinary understanding of what might be entailed by genuine attempts to meet that demand, our paper provides signposts to and analysis of important features of local ecological knowledge modelling.

Renewing “That Which Was Almost Lost or Forgotten”: The Implications of Old Ethnologies for Present-Day Traditional Ecological Knowledge Among Canada’s Pacific Coast Peoples
By: Dianne C. Newell
The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 6(2)
Key words: Ethnology, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s Pacific Coast
The pressure on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to solve socio-economic issues globally begs the question: What is the state of TEK today, given the economic, social, and cultural ruptures it has endured during the past 200 years? The author traces how historical collaborative work between ethnographic pairings of “insiders” and “outsiders” created partnerships between some prominent anthropologists and local Indigenous research collaborators. The author then suggests future policy concerning collaboration between non-Indigenous academics and Indigenous communities should take into account the lessons to be learned from these historical practices.

Is Local Ecological Knowledge A Useful Conservation Tool for Small Mammals in a Caribbean Multicultural Landscape?
By: Samuel T. Turvey, Cristina Fernández-Secades, Jose M. Nuñez-Miño, Tom Hart, Pedro Martinez, Jorge L. Brocca, & Richard P. Young
Biological Conservation, 169:189-197
Key words: Charismatic species, ethnotaxonomy, interview survey, Plagiodontia, Solenodon
Local ecological knowledge is an increasingly used, cost-effective source of data for conservation research and management. However, untrained observers are more likely to provide meaningful information on species that are charismatic and easily identifiable (e.g. large-bodied vertebrates) or of socio-economic importance, and may ignore or misidentify smaller-bodied, elusive and non-charismatic species. These problems may be further exacerbated by variation in environmental awareness and perception between different socio-cultural and ethnic groups often present across the range of threatened non-charismatic species.

Introduction: Conceptual, Methodological, Practical, and Ethical Challenges in Studying and Applying Indigenous Knowledge
By: Courtney Carothers, Mark Moritz, & Rebecca Zarger
Ecology and Society, 19(4):43
Key words: Collaborative methodology, Indigenous education, Indigenous Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge change, practice theory
This special feature, based on an invited session of papers presented at the 2012 American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meeting, explores key conceptual, methodological, practical, and ethical challenges and opportunities in studying indigenous knowledge systems and applying insights from such knowledge systems in scholarly, resource management, and local community venues across the globe. The papers in this feature represent geographic and topical diversity, while converging on several important themes facing anthropology and other fields that study knowledge systems.

Trails, Fires, and Tribulations: Tribal Resource Management and Research Issues in Northern California
By: Frank K. Lake
Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities
Key words: Fire history, severity studies, multimodal research, California
This essay presents multiple ways of engaging in ecological research—particularly in the study of fuels, the effect of fire on the landscape, anthropogenic causes and ways to engage with tribal partners.

Culture, law, risk and governance: contexts of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation
By: Terry Williams and Preston Hardison
Special Issue on "Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences, and Actions"
Available with open access at
Key words: Knowledge exchange, power asymmetries, reciprocity, informed consent
This article promotes awareness of cultural, legal, risk-benefit, and governance issues and encourages the use of research and policy measures, including incorporation of free prior and informed consent.

Walk Softly and Listen Carefully: Building Research Relationships with Tribal Communities
By: NCAI Policy Research Center and MSU Center for Native Health Partnerships
Key words: Building trust, community driven research, tribal sovereignty
This publication is informative with regard to initiating and engaging with American Indians and Alaska Natives in research in a culturally appropriate way. It provides researchers with some advice on how to conduct themselves, and points to consider.

Constructing Confidence: Rational Skepticism and Systematic Enquiry in Local Ecological Knowledge Research
By: Anthony Davis & Kenneth Ruddle
Ecological Applications, 20(3):880-894
Key words: Indigenous/Local/Traditional Ecological Knowledge, rational skepticism, research design, research methodology
Key attributes of the social research contributions on indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK), local ecological knowledge (LEK), and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) are analyzed using the most frequently cited literature generated by the “ISI Web of Knowledge” and “Google Scholar” search engines. They are further exemplified by an examination of two contrasting approaches to the analysis of IEK/LEK/TEK. This paper examines the roles each of these play as well as suggests additional research topics that could address some of the issues.

Chapter 6
The Haudenosaunee Environmental Protection Process (HEPP): Reinforcing the Three Principles of Goodmindedness, Peacefulness, and Strength to Protect the Natural World

By: Brenda E. LaFrance and James E. Costello
from Preserving Tradition and Understanding the Past: Papers from the Conference on Iroquois Research, 2001-2005
Key words: Haudenosaunee, environmental protection, traditional teachings
Located on page 61
HEPP has one member from each nation who meet to discuss traditional teachings to address modern environmental concerns. Each nation may choose if and how it uses the traditional teachings to address environmental issues.

Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Context
By Margaret Kovach
ISBN 978-1-4426-1211-2
University of Toronto Press
Key words: Indigenous methodologies, ethics, decolonization, research frameworks, tribal knowledge, reciprocity
Through the author's journey, this book discusses qualitative inquiry, creating Indigenous frameworks, centering tribal knowledge, decolonizing research, story, situating self in research, Indigenous research methods and interpretation, and ethics and reciprocity. Each chapter includes a portion of an interview with an Indigenous researcher on the topic of the chapter.

Can You Hear Us Now? Voices from the Margin: Using Indigenous Methodologies in Geographic Research
By: Renee Pualani Louis
Geographic Research
June 2007
Key words: Indigenous methodologies, Indigenous epistemologies, Indigenous research agenda, Indigenous faculty, decolonization
Louis' article provides insight for any researcher working with Indigenous peoples. She enlightens us to the difference between using western scientific methods with Indigenous peoples and using Indigenous methodologies that integrate Indigenous voices. Four principles appear in the article: relational accountability, respectful representation, reciproal appropriation, and rights and regulation. In addition, there are four differences between western and Indigenous methodologies: accepting/advocating Indigenous knowledge systems, positioning of Indigenous members and the researcher in the research, determining the research agenda, and directionality of sharing knowledge.

Assessing participatory GIS for community‐based natural resource management: claiming community forests in Cameroon
By: Michael McCall, and Peter Minang
The Geographical Journal
Key words: Participatory GIS, good governance, community forest management, spatial planning, Cameroon
Using a case study in Tinto, Cameroon, authors develop a model to evaluate the efficacy of participatory‐GIS (PGIS) and mapping in spatial planning applications. Particular focus is on indigenous participant expectations, legitimizing local knowledge, degrees of participation, and changes in equity for the target community.

Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest planning: a framework for recording Aboriginal resource and social values
By: Melanie Karjala, Erin Sherry, and Stephen Dewhurst
Forest Policy and Economics
Key words: Sustainable forest management, criteria and indicators, Indigenous people, First Nations, John Prince Research Forest, Canada
The Aboriginal Forest Planning Process (AFPP) is a participatory decision-making tool developed for the John Prince Research Forest. The framework will help collaborative management partners assess how well they are able to meet their goals.

Evaluating Collaborative Natural Resource Management
By: Alexander Conley, and Margaret A. Moote
Society and Natural Resources
Key words: Collaboration, evaluation, natural resource management, participatory decision making
Authors discuss several variations of collaborative management and the ways in which they are evaluated.

Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Science: Methods and Applications
By: Henry P. Huntington
Ecological Applications, Vol. 10 Issue 5 pg. 1270-1274
Key words: Research, collaboration, methods, inclusion, engagement, Indigenous knowledge systems
The main purpose of this article is to outline a few methods that can be used re guarding gathering TEK data. The methods discussed include Semi-directive interviews, questionnaires, analytical workshops, and collaborative field work. The author also gives some examples of research he has done with TEK methods.

LORE: Capturing Traditional Environmental Knowledge
By: Ed. Martha Johnson
Dene Cultural Institute and International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
Key words: Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Dene Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Inuit Environmental Knowledge
In recent years, the value of the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, and particularly their traditional environmental knowledge, has been recognized. This has unleashed a flood of research. Some of the research has been undertaken by scientists working alone, but the most innovative responses to this trend have been developed by indigenous researchers working in collaboration with Western scientists. This book presents the results of a workshop on the documentation and application of traditional environmental knowledge through community-based research.

Last updated: July 5, 2023