April 2013 seminar focuses on traditional ecological knowledge

In April, we kicked off our seminar series with the topic of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The seminar topic, proposed by Dan Shilling of Arizona State University and Melissa Nelson of San Francisco State University, was one of many proposed for this series.

It was an inspiring gathering, and we received many positive comments. In addition, an article about the conference and the book series was recently posted to ASU News. It includes a nice feature of presenter Simon Ortiz, and helps to put the complex topic of TEK into a context that a lay audience might understand.

Read the article: Old becomes new: Traditional knowledge shapes sustainability thinking

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability Seminar Comments

“I am riding the crest of a great wave of inspiration — so much so that I’ve thrown myself into research for my chapter contribution. It truly was a rare group of intelligent and passionate people whose participation made this seminar SHINE. Having been to many workshops and seminars, I can’t honestly think of any comparable to this one. The place, the land, the people, the food — all blend together in my mind to make this a time I will always remember and will continue to be inspired by.”

— Dennis Martinez
Chair Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (IPRN)
Member Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA) Steering Committee Co-Director Takelma Intertribal Project (TIP)
Douglas City, CA


“I hope everyone had smooth travels back to home and family and an unfolding Spring. Thanks to each of  you for such a creative and productive gathering — my head and heart are full of your words. Special thanks to our wonderful conveners, our generous host and to the rocks who watched over us and listened in. I’m looking forward to the next steps!”

— Robin Wall Kimmerer
Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology
State University of New York College


“Thanks to [all of you] for this incredible gathering of people and the following book project. I was inspired and moved by what was said. This was such an intelligent group and the possibilities for the book are exciting. I am grateful to be a part of it. The hospitality was also incredible and thoughtful in such a beautiful, bountiful land. Here is hope that our book will offer something of great difference and meaningful words to a large readership. It is a book with a heart and spirit that seems like no other. The outcome is going to be a work of great beauty, intelligence, and a place where light comes through the words. It is already a felt presence.”

— Linda Hogan
Chickasaw Nation Writer in Residence


“Thank you so much for creating this wonderful seminar on Traditional Knowledge! I came back absolutely inspired and amazed by this group of dedicated, eloquent, and inspirational colleagues! I am incredibly honored to have heard the words and thoughts of this distinguished group, and I look forward to participating in the next steps of this project. I thank each of you and our colleagues for the amazing contributions and for being so kind and welcoming. I also thank John Ware for his intellectual engagement in the meeting, and for hosting us in such a gracious manner at the beautiful Amerind campus. This workshop has been a highlight of my year, and I wish each of you a happy and peaceful summer and hope to see everyone again sometime soon!”

— Rebecca Tsosie
Arizona State University Professor of Law
Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar
Executive Director Indian Legal Program
Affiliate Professor, American Indian Studies Program
Tempe, AZ


“Thank you for putting together such a wonderful event — it was an amazing experience. I think we did some “collective imagining” that Robin discussed.”

— Joan McGregor
Arizona State University Professor of Philosophy
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Philosophy
Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, SHPRS
Tempe, Arizona


“I will add my voice to all your lovely words of gratitude. It was an profound honor to be included in such a group – such grace, such collegiality, such joy, such important work. After our meeting I went to Annapolis and was part of a site review team for a large NSF sponsored synthesis center, bringing ecological and social science together. I was able to speak about our event to a number of people who were all very interested – including an extremely gracious and eager NSF officer. At the same time it remains clear to me that the Western scientific ship need the moral rudder of TEK scholars more than ever – our work is important!”

— Michael P. Nelson
Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor of Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
Oregon State University

Current proposals

Traditional ecological knowledge and sustainability (D. Shilling and M. Nelson)

Sustainability as Myth and Practice in the Global City (M. Checker, C. Isenhower, G. McDonogh)

Law for Sustainability (J.C. Dernbach)

Main themes and new directions in sustainability research (C. Boone, S. Pickett, others)

The lived experience of sustainability and resilience: archaeological perspectives (M. Hegmon)

Transitioning to a Sustainable Urban Planet (C. Boone and others)

(Please see About-Proposals about proposing a seminar/volume in New Directions)

Event Announcement: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability Seminar

How can the land practices of indigenous peoples assist today’s sustainability researchers and educators? That is what our seminar on traditional ecological knowledge and sustainability aims to find out.

People have lived in the southwest for about 13,000 years—that’s a lot of traditional ecological knowledge to learn. This five-day seminar will explore and identify the traditional ecological knowledge and sustainability link though many different lenses.

At the seminar, ten scholars share their interpretation of traditional ecological knowledge and how it fits into current sustainability practices. Discussions will form later and the scholar presentations will be available as a book series, New Directions in Sustainability and Society.

Speakers come from many disciplines including: philosophy, resource management, arts, law, and agriculture.

This seminar is made possible by the contributions from the Amerind Museum and Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability.

Dates: Spring 2013

For more information, contact:

Melissa Nelson

Dan Shilling

Cambridge University Press announces book series: New Directions in Sustainability and Society

In partnership with Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, and the Amerind Foundation, Cambridge University Press will publish a book series about progress for a sustainable future.

The book series, edited by Christopher Boone, associate dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and Norman Yoffee, professor emeritus at University of Michigan’s Department of Anthropology and Department of Near Eastern Studies, defines “sustainability” as a practice that “seeks to reduce environmental degradation and improve human well-being by maintaining and strengthening the social and ecological systems that support us.”

The series emphasizes on combining and merging expertise from a wide range of disciplines—the humanities, social sciences, applied sciences, and natural sciences. Boone and Yoffee assert that in order to achieve a sustainable future, behavior must be changed. But how does one change behavior?

The editors welcome proposals for volumes and for seminars at the Amerind Foundation that contribute to sustainability themes. These are:

  • equity and justice
  • trade-offs and scale
  • vulnerability and resilience
  • bio and cultural diversity
  • long-term perspectives

Ultimately, the book series aims to raise awareness to the current human-environment disconnection and interactions. Researchers and the public will be able to make positive changes to create a more sustainable world.