Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 18
Restoration and Reciprocity: The Contributions
of Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Carol Crowe, an Algonquin ecologist, tells the story of explaining to one of her elders
that she was traveling to a conference about sustainable development. The term was
not familiar to him, so she explained the notion of managing resources in such a way
that future generations would be able to obtain the same ecosystem services that are
provided today, without impairment to the land. He was quiet for a time. The idea was
hardly new to him. He then asked her to carry a message to the conference. He said,
“This idea of sustainability sounds to me like the same old formula by which people
simply continue to take from the earth. They just want to keep taking. You can't just
take. Tell them, that among our people our concern is not what we can take from the
land, but what we can give.”
Restoration and Reciprocity
The idea of reciprocity with land is fundamental tomany indigenous belief systems. In-
deed, such beliefs serve as the foundation for what have been described as “cultures of
gratitude.” In such cultures, people have a responsibility not only to be grateful for the
gifts provided by Mother Earth, they are also responsible for playing a positive and ac-
tive role in the well-being of the land. They are called not to be passive consumers, but
to sustain the land that sustains them. Responsibilities to the more-than-human world
are simultaneously material and spiritual, and, in fact, the two are inseparable. Ecolog-
ical restoration can be viewed as an act of reciprocity, where humans exercise their
care-giving responsibility for ecosystems (Egan 1988; Oeschlager 1996; Kimmerer
2000; Martinez, Salmon, and Nelson 2008). The traditional ecological knowledge
(TEK) of indigenous peoples is rich with prescriptions, both philosophical and prag-
matic, for this practice of giving back to the land. This chapter engages TEK as a part-
ner to contemporary restoration science, in a symbiosis based on intellectual pluralism.
“We're going to need the enduring knowledge of indigenous science as well as the best
of leading edge western science. It's high tech meets high TEK.” (Ausubel 2008).
Among my Anishinaabe people, we share a teaching known as “the prophecy of
the seventh fire.” This teaching relates that, with the coming of strangers to our shores,
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