Local & Traditional Knowledge

An Ahtna Athabaskan camp on the east bank of the Copper River. The drawing was made by a U.S. Army explorer in 1895

An Ahtna Athabaskan camp on the east bank of the Copper River. The drawing was made by a U.S. Army explorer in 1895, (image courtesy: Alaska Historical Library, Alaska Centennial Collection)

Local and traditional knowledge can inform and augment scientific data, and vice versa. That’s why the Copper River Knowledge System includes local and traditional knowledge in its scope. In presenting traditional knowledge in tandem with scientific knowledge, practitioners can attempt to weave the two together and create a more holistic view of the socio-economic and socio-environmental context to which the scientific data are presented. An understanding of local and traditional knowledge and how it differs from scientific knowledge is an important basis for determining how to use it. Knowing what it contains and how it is acquired and held is fundamental to being able to make good use of the knowledge and to encourage all parties to be aware of the added value its use will bring.

Most indigenous people have traditional songs, stories, legends, dreams, methods and practices as means of transmitting specific human elements of traditional knowledge. Sometimes it is preserved in artifacts handed from father to son or mother to daughter. In indigenous knowledge systems, there is usually no real separation between secular and sacred knowledge and practice — they are one and the same. In virtually all of these systems, knowledge is transmitted directly from individual to individual.

Several efforts throughout the Copper River watershed have worked with local communities to document traditional Ahtna knowledge. Some of this information, such as traditional Ahtna place names, is documented in the spatial portal component of the Copper River Knowledge System, whereas other information is presented in the tab titled “Ahtna knowledge of salmon and non-salmon species.”

© 2011 Copper River Knowledge System