Is Validation of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge a Disrespectful Process? A case study of traditional fishing poisons and invasive fish management from the Wet Tropics, Australia
Gratani, Monica, Butler, James R.A., Royee, Frank, Valentine, Peter, Burrows, Damien, Canendo, Warren I., and Anderson, Alex S. (2011) Is Validation of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge a Disrespectful Process? A case study of traditional fishing poisons and invasive fish management from the Wet Tropics, Australia. Ecology and Society, 16 (3). pp. 1-14.
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Despite the growing recognition of the contribution that indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) can make to contemporary 'western' science-based natural resource management (NRM), integration of the two knowledge systems has not reached its full potential in Australia. One explanation is that there is an implicit requirement for IEK to be validated by western scientific knowledge (SK), which has stalled its application and perpetuated the primacy of SK over IEK. Consequently, there is little experience of IEK validation, indigenous peoples' perspectives of the process, and no formal frameworks to achieve mutual and equitable validation of both IEK and SK. In this paper we assess the opportunities and limitations of validation processes using a case study of traditional fishing poisons for invasive fish management in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of Australia. The study was conducted within a coresearch approach between the Aboriginal holders of the IEK, who are among the paper's authors, and science-based biologists. We jointly carried out scientific laboratory trials that demonstrated that fishing poisons are effective at immobilizing invasive tilapia. Retrospective interviews with indigenous coresearchers showed that they did not find the experience of validation disrespectful, but instead empowering and necessary for their IEK to be understood and appreciated by scientists and included in NRM. Based on our experiences and knowledge of socialization theory we present a framework for the potential future design of collaborative validation processes to facilitate the integration of IEK into mainstream NRM, and the acceptance of SK within indigenous communities in Australia.
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