Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge — Intergenerational Land Stewardship

Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) is the knowledge base acquired by indigenous and local peoples and passed down from generation to generation, through the changes of ecosystems over hundreds or thousands of years, to the present day.

Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) is the time immemorial knowledge base acquired by aboriginal peoples through direct contact with the environment where they live, work, and play. This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation and is place-based knowledge, in which people learn to adapt to their environment through interactions, observations, and experiences with their ecological, social, and spiritual systems.

ITEK includes intimate and detailed knowledge of plants, animals, and natural phenomena. This cultural beneficial knowledge results in the development and use of appropriate technologies for hunting, fishing, trapping, agriculture, forestry, pharmacy, housing, and for all aspects of living in a particular place. This way of life is a subsistence lifestyle and still remains at the family roots of aboriginal people who continue to participate in a hunter and gatherer society.

Dennis Martinez (Oodham/Chicano) founder of the Indigenous People’s Restoration Network, presenting “Creating A Sustainable Ecological Culture” workshop at White Oak Farm & Education Center in Williams, Oregon.

Fire is an essential element and integral part of indigenous land-based culture. It is used for cooking, to maintain resources, and for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. Many plants used for food, medicine, or cultural items – such as fibrous plants used to weave baskets – are carefully tended with fire.

In recognition of its valuable contribution to conservation, resource management, and sustainable use of resources, ITEK has been increasingly sought out and relied upon. In the 1980s the term TEK came into widespread use. In the 2020s, the term became ITEK. The knowledge is used widely in many applications, including in all of Lomakatsi’s tribally led restoration projects and in our development of other stewardship and education initiatives.

“The Circle has healing power. In the Circle, we are all equal. When in the Circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity. The Hoop of Life is also a circle. On this hoop, there is a place for every species, every race, every tree, and every plant. It is this completeness of Life that must be respected in order to bring about health on this planet. To understand each other, as the ripples when a stone is tossed into the waters, the Circle starts small and grows…until it fills the whole lake.”
– Dave Yakima Chief, Oglala Lakota

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