Workshop Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science

Wow – what an amazing workshop!

We hosted 41 people in Bella Bella and at the Hakai Institute on B.C.’s central coast to participate in our workshop - ‘Visioning the Future of Kelp Forest, Sea Otter & Human Interactions’. Over 5 days (June 16-20th), participants exchanged scientific information and traditional knowledge and began to co-develop strategies to navigate the profound transformations that occur with the recovery of sea otters.


Following traditional protocol, this workshop started by a welcome from Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief Wigvilhba Wakas’ who gave us permission to convene in Heiltsuk territory and generously shared his family’s songs, dances, and masks. The Nuu-chah-nulth and Haida Hereditary Chiefs, stewardship managers and scientists accepted his invitation.


This workshop was attended by Hereditary and elected First Nations Chiefs, Elders, stewardship managers, artists, natural and social scientists, print media journalists, and a videography team.

Through a series of catalyzing speed talks, small group dialogues, 3 framing keynote talks and field trips to local kelp forests, sea otter rafts and ancient clam gardens, we discussed;

1) ancient Indigenous use and management of coastal resources including sea otters, clams, sea urchins, abalone and kelp forest resources broadly,

2) sea otter impacts on coupled-human ocean systems today, and

3) how to navigate these profound social-ecological changes via community-based co-management of coastal marine resources, integrating knowledge systems, and reconciling divergent worldviews.

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View some of the presentations here.

To see more workshop photos, click here.

This workshop has served as a learning platform by which scientist and Indigenous leaders and managers have begun to exchange knowledge, worldviews, viewpoints and values, identifying points of convergence and divergence, with the goal of learning from each other.

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 “What impressed me the most was how compatible First Nations traditional knowledge of sea otters, their ecological role and cultural significance was with university-based studies of otter dynamics. This meeting identified a common ground based in mutual respect and understanding. The tribal leaders' pride and deep knowledge of their traditions, often expressed with humor, was important. One word summarizes my take-away message: inspirational.                                                                                      - Dr. Bob Paine, University of Washington 2014

The depth and scope of both traditional and scientific knowledge present was staggering. But perhaps even more impressive was the cross cultural sharing — and acceptance — of these diverse epistemologies.”                                                                                                 - Ilja Herb, videographer 2014

I now see the connection between sea otter recovery, the return of kelp forests and the role of these underwater forests in drawing down carbon pollution from our atmosphere. Who would have thought that predators, like sea otters, can indirectly reduce the effects of climate change.”                                                                                                    - Kii’iljuus, Haida Gwaii

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