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Traditional indigenous knowledge: a reference for facing the challenges of the pandemic

Aurora Borealis (Yukon) – Environmental fragility due to climate change and the onset of the pandemic prompted four Yukoners to reflect on the role of traditional Indigenous knowledge in the health of the Earth and its peoples. communities.

Roselyne Gagné – Aurora Borealis

Joe Copper Jack, Katarzyna Nowak, Anne Mease and Jared Gonet are behind a letter published in the prestigious scientific journal Science, in which they argue that indigenous traditional knowledge must be part of the overall strategy put forward by public health experts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We published this letter to reflect our desire to achieve greater collaboration between modern Western science and traditional knowledge,” says Anne Mease, co-author of the document and outreach coordinator for the Society for Nature and Parks. Canada (SNAP, also known by the acronym CPAWS). “We must not forget that understanding our Earth, the environment and the health of our populations are goals that these two complementary systems pursue on an equal basis,” she continues.

Read the entire article on the L’Aurore newspaper website boreal

A common application of the One Health principles

The letter, published on September 25, discusses the One Health approach, widely advocated by governments around the world to ensure effective management of the current health crisis.

Described by the WHO as a way of developing and implementing programs and policies in which several sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes, this approach finds its foundations in the intrinsic connection it suggests between human and animal health and that of their shared environments. The current pandemic, for example, would result from a weakening of the link between these three main pillars.

However, as the authors of the text mention, the First Nations have already recognized and applied the fundamental principles of the One Health method, and have done so for thousands of years. Despite the collaborative nature of the modern approach, the authors lament the fact that traditional knowledge holders are rarely called upon to share their knowledge and the conclusions of the learnings they have achieved over time.

“In the Yukon it’s a bit better because scientists are more inclined to include traditional knowledge in their concepts. Unfortunately, this openness is more limited elsewhere, ”deplores Ms. Mease.

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Ensuring a more respectful and resilient future

As the letter points out, traditional knowledge and associated processes could be used in particular to guide adaptation strategies and ecological restoration plans to achieve sustainable results, in partnership with western science.

“Traditional knowledge gives us clear leads on how to ensure the health of our communities, for example through food security based on healthy harvests and respectful hunting. Our ancestors have done this for thousands of years, ”says Mease, who is also a member of the Selkirk First Nation.

In order to bring about systemic changes in our relationship with the land and with one another, many ambitious goals have been identified by the group behind the letter.

“On the one hand, we want to develop the foundations of the Western approach using the principles of traditional knowledge. This could then allow us to develop a transdisciplinary One Health consortium that would involve several agencies, especially across the Yukon ”, we read.

Other objectives also include consideration of cumulative effects on community health during socioeconomic and environmental studies by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), as well as the inclusion of Indigenous principles and contributions in the how the One Health approach is taught and applied in all regions of the world.

“[Collaborer avec la science occidentale] reflects the principles that lie at the heart of our traditional culture: care, share, respect and educate, ”concludes Anne Mease.