Scientists warn on the dangerous implications of losing Indigenous and Local Knowledge systems

A new study co-led by Dr. Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares from the University of Helsinki highlights the pervasive social and ecological consequences of the destruction and suppression of the knowledge systems of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The authors, an international group of scientists, summarize the important role of knowledge systems and practices of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in safeguarding the biological and cultural diversity of our planet. In addition, the study documents the existence of many different drivers threatening the relationships between Indigenous Peoples and local communities and their environments, and the increasing loss of Indigenous and Local Knowledge with dramatic social and ecological consequences such as the erosion of land stewardship systems and the degradation of sacred natural sites.

 “Although Indigenous and Local Knowledge systems are inherently adaptive and remarkably resilient, their foundations have been and continue to be compromised by colonial settlement, land dispossession, and resource extraction. The ecological and social impacts of these pressures are profound and widespread,” explains Dr. Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares from the University of Helsinki.

15 recommendations to decision-makers to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities

The authors highlight 15 strategic actions to recognize and support the efforts of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in sustaining their knowledge systems and ties to lands. Each recommendation is founded on a biocultural approach, acknowledging that nature and culture can be mutually enriching, and recognizing the potential of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. These recommendations are directed to decision-makers at all levels, from regional inter-governmental organizations to local governments, as well as to the private sector, donor agencies, and research and educational organizations. They are also an invitation to the global community to add their voices to advocate for the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, lifeways, territories, and knowledge systems across scales.

“We worked hard to find a balance between discussing the threats to Indigenous and local knowledge and highlighting how Indigenous Peoples and local communities are taking action to turn around these threats.  Around the world, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are celebrating, protecting, and revitalizing their knowledge systems and practices.  As scientists, policymakers, and global citizens, we need to support these efforts in our professional activities, in the policies of our governmental agencies, and in our personal choices” concludes Dr. Dana Lepofsky, from Simon Fraser University (Canada) and co-lead author of the study.

The article draws on the knowledge of 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous co-authors from around the world. The article is part of the “Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” series that highlights threats to humanity caused by climate change, biodiversity loss, and other global changes.

Original article:

Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Dana Lepofsky, Ken Lertzman, Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Eduardo S. Brondizio, Michael C. Gavin, Phil O’B. Lyver, George P. Nicholas, Pua’ala Pascua, Nicholas J. Reo, Victoria Reyes-García, Nancy J. Turner, Johanna Yletyinen, E. N. Anderson, William Balée, Joji Cariño, Dominique M. David-Chavez, Christopher P. Dunn, Stephen C. Garnett, Spencer Greening (La’goot), Shain Jackson (Niniwum Selapem), Harriet Kuhnlein, Zsolt Molnár, Guillaume Odonne, Gunn-Britt Retter, William J. Ripple, László Sáfián, Abolfazl Sharifian Bahraman, Miquel Torrents-Ticó, and Mehana Blaich Vaughan. 2021.
Scientists’ Warning to Humanity on Threats to Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems. Journal of Ethnobiology 41(2): 144-171. DOI: 10.2993/0278-0771-41.2.144