Indigenous Science Recognized

Wonderful to see a series of talks on Indigenous perspectives included on the program for the February AAAS meeting.

The group—the Association for the Advancement of Science—is dedicated to advancing the discipline and publishes the prestigious journal Science.

Talks about Indigenous peoples have punctuated the AAAS meetings since the association was formed, including an address in 1885 on the Native Tribes of Alaska by William Dall.

What’s interesting to read 127 years later is the reverence Dall accords the tribes.

Rather than diminishing their values and traditions, he speaks with a modicum of respect: “The Indian is a man like ourselves, with much the same tendencies, and, except where his peculiar ethics bind him, a parallel to his love, hate, appetites and aspirations may be seen not fundamentally modified, in those of our own children.”

Although Dall may have regarded the arctic denizens as children, his writing is quite a counterpoint to other opinions of the late 19th Century.

For example, a few years later Teddy Roosevelt would write that “Indians never had any real title to the soil” and that the settler and pioneer “had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.”

Today’s politicians and scientists are more tactful in their references to Indigenous nations.

I was fortunate to learn about some of the anthropologic work generated in the Northern climes during my fellowship at the Smithsonian, where I learned about the work by Stephen Loring and Igor Krupnik. See my blog about Loring at

Krupnik, a well-respected researcher, reported on climate change at the AAAS meeting and answered questions on the website.

He makes an important point that Indigenous ways-of-knowing—including science—are woven into the fabric of daily life: “If your life depends upon going out and coming back safe, and bringing food and traveling, then you’re naturally much more attentive and in tune to the environment,” Krupnik says.

Krupnik recognizes that knowledge comes from experience and from one’s family. “The difference between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous residents is that Indigenous people have the advantage of multigenerational knowledge, and traditional knowledge of language, classification, and nomenclature that they learn from parents, grandparents, and other elders.”

Good to see Native knowledge systems honored.

For the interview with Krupnik see: h


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, human origin, Indian, Native Science, science communication, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Indigenous Science Recognized

  1. Wow! Thank you! I permanently needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I take a part of your post to my blog?


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