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Your Environment. Your Health.

Tribal Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Its Value for Environmental Health Sciences

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

June 22, 2015

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Tribal Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is traditional knowledge and, like Western science, is based on the accumulation of observations. It entails a cumulative body of knowledge transmitted through generations, as well as beliefs about how people fit into ecosystems (Berkes 2000). TEK is holistic in outlook and adaptive by nature and has been gathered by generations of observers whose lives depend on it (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997). Tribal elders reintroduced it to promote a better understanding of the historic relationship between people and their environment. Interest in TEK is growing among investigators and federal funders since it represents valuable local knowledge with the potential to complement research that addresses tribal environmental health concerns and disparities. This webinar discussed TEK’s value from the perspective of representatives of indigenous communities, and it provided an opportunity for thoughtful dialogue about traditional knowledge and how it should inform the research process. The webinar included an overview of TEK, as well as presentations about (a) how it is used to understand the relationship between toxic exposures, health, and the environment in the Arctic and (b) the development of Indigenous Health Indicators that reflect a holistic view of health held by tribal communities.

Presentations

Experts

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Mose Herne, M.S., M.P.H., is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation (Turtle Clan), and he is currently the Director of the Division of Planning, Evaluation, and Research at the Indian Health Service. He previously led the Division of Behavioral Health at the Indian Health Service and has a broad range of experience, including serving as Public Health Director for a local health department in New York State, working in clinical behavioral health positions with the Veterans Health Administration and Indian Health Service, and holding academic positions in psychology and behavioral sciences at Boston University and Fitchburg State College. He completed his undergraduate work in psychology and neurobiology at Clarkson University, his master’s degree in neuroscience at Brandeis University, and his Master of Public Health degree in environmental health science at Boston University. His research interests include social and physical environmental determinants of health among environmental justice communities. Mose is also a Gulf War and U.S. Navy submarine veteran and currently resides in North Potomac, Maryland, with his wife, Anne, and their son, Jack.

Headshot of Ahtuangaruak

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak  is an Inupiaq activist and tribal leader, working to protect our oceans, and she is also a graduate of the University of Washington Medex Northwest Physician Assistant Training Program. She lived for 24 years in Nuiqsut (where she also served as Mayor), participating in local community meetings related to oil and gas development. She currently has a variety of affiliations, serving as a board member of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (the regional tribal government), co-chair of the North Slope Federal Subsistence Board Regional Advisory Council, executive advisor to the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, founding board member of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, and environmental justice advisor with Alaska Wilderness League (working on an environmental justice grant for the Outer Continental Shelf). She also received the 2009 Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League.

headshot of campbell

Larry Campbell is the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. For the past 25 years, the greater part of his work has involved the relationships between tribal, local, regional, national, and international governments. He has presented numerous times on inter-governmental relations, as well as cultural, spiritual, and historical issues.

donatuto

Jamie Donatuto, Ph.D., is an Environmental Community Health Analyst for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, located in the beautiful Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. For 15 years, Jamie has been enacting investigations on behalf of the Tribe, including researching toxics in local traditional foods, studying tribal health-related impacts from climate change, and developing (with Larry Campbell) community-based indigenous health indicators. Jamie and Larry most recently launched the Swinomish Community Health Program, and they work extensively with community education and outreach projects. Jamie completed her doctoral studies in the interdisciplinary graduate program of Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of British Columbia.

For More Information

Indigenous Health Indicators (Swinomish Indian Tribal Community)
This is the website of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s Indigenous Health Indicators project, which aims to create and test a set of indicators specific to Native American tribal communities in the Puget Sound / Salish Sea region of the Pacific Northwest.

Donatuto J, Grossman EE, Konovsky J, Grossman S, Campbell LW. 2014. Indigenous community health and climate change: integrating biophysical and social science indicators. Coastal Management 42(4):355-373.[Full Text]

We want your feedback! 

Send comments, questions, and suggestions for future webinar topics to peph@niehs.nih.gov.