Raising the Bar: Recognizing the Intricacies of Cultural and Ecological Knowledge (CEK) in Natural Resource Management


  • Dan Orcherton Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of the South Pacific




Collaborative learning, Cultural ecological knowledge, Cultural values, Indigenous knowledge, Natural resource management, Oral knowledge, World views.


In these rather tumultuous social and economic times, Aboriginal groups and natural resource practitioners often express the real need to look more closely at the importance and complexities of cultural ecological knowledge (CEK). To understand these intricacies and apply these principles on the ground, some theoretical constructs and practical examples need to be highlighted. Such constructs and examples can help explain the divergent world views of Indigenous knowledge and Western science within natural resource management. The objective of this article is to synthesize current literature and contemporary thought on the importance and complexities of cultural ecological knowledge (CEK) in natural resource management. In addition, it examines practical examples of the differences and similarities between Indigenous knowledge and Western science. The scope of this article is the breadth of understanding of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Western scientists the world over, with the intended audience being natural resource managers, scientists/academics, and traditional knowledge practitioners. The author takes the position that natural resource managers should create social legitimacy processes through collaborative learning and systems-thinking approaches. These processes can often be validated through transfer of oral and written “ways of knowing,” even when there are divergent world views. Success relies on designing clear objectives and outcomes when incorporating cultural/ecological knowledge in resource management as well as implementing systematic and culturally sensitive heritage assessments and characterizing cultural pluralism. Finally, there is a need for managers to incorporate CEK and to facilitate legislative, political, and ethical processes that help create social and cultural legitimacy in natural resource management.






Discussion Papers