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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

SUNY–ESF 'Teach-In' Links Indigenous Knowledge, Western Science

October 17, 2006

imageSYRACUSE, N.Y. — The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will host a daylong teach-in Oct. 17 focused on melding indigenous and "western" approaches to environmental protection and restoration.

The event will bring together experts in science, ethics, and traditional ecological knowledge for a day of workshops and collaboration on the ESF campus. The event is called, "Finding Common Ground: Indigenous and Western Approaches to Healing Our Land and Waters."

ESF Associate Professor Jack Manno, who teaches in ESF'S environmental studies program, said the gathering is potentially historic.

"There are many ways to comprehend Nature, two of which — the scientific perspective and the perspective of traditional ecological knowledge — are often seen as mutually exclusive. But the have much in common and at this teach-in we'll have a conversation where they see what the common ground is."

He said Syracuse is an appropriate location for such a gathering because the region, specifically the shore of Onondaga Lake, is the birthplace of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.  

"The lake is sacred to the Haudenosaunee at the same time it's of great interest to scientists as a great challenge for restoration. Scientific skills are needed to clean it," he said. "It won't happen without both of those perspectives. Onondaga Lake is a just a small part of the Finger Lakes chain. The world doesn't know about it's spiritual, cultural and scientific  importance. But when seen as a place where science and traditional knowledge come together to bring an ecoystem back to vitality, it will become a place of global significance "

The teach-in is part of the yearlong educational series co-sponsored by ESF and numerous other academic and community partners. The event will be preceded by a presentation 7 p.m.  Monday, Oct. 16, at Syracuse Stage, and followed by another presentation at 7 p.m. the day of the teach-in.

The teach-in will begin at 8:30 a.m.

imageDr. Robin W. Kimmerer, an ESF botanist of Native American heritage, will present the morning keynote address at 9:20. Her topic is, "Restoration and Reciprocity: Finding Common Ground between Scientific and Traditional Ecological Knowledge."

Her address will be followed by a conversation among participants who include Joyce King, the director of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force; Ross Whaley, former ESF president and current chair of the Adirondack Park Agency; Irving Powless Jr. of the HETF; and David Carpenter of the Institute for Health and the Environment at SUNY Albany.

Morning workshop topics include Activist Women and Native rights; Onondaga Creek Restoration: Values and Uses; Environmental Ethics; Apologies to Mother Earth; and Haudenosaunee: A Cultural/Historical Overview

King will present the afternoon keynote, followed by a conversation about women's traditional roles on behalf of Mother Earth, and then a second series of workshops. Topics include Religion and Nature, Grief and Gratitude, Visions of Onondaga Lake, and The Lost Waters of Onondaga Valley.

At 4:30 p.m., Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai will speak at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus. She was awarded the Nobel in 2004 for contributions to sustainable development, democracy and peace.