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Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) describes the complex set of knowledge, practices and beliefs about the relationship that indigenous peoples have with the living and nonliving world around them (Berkes, 2003).

It exists in societies that have a direct dependence on local resources. It is the intergenerational knowledge that develops from a long-term intimacy and attentiveness when people are materially and spiritually connected to their landscape (Kimmerer, 2002).

It is the intellectual twin to western scientific knowledge. However, Traditional Ecological Knowledge observations differ from their western counterparts in that they are mostly qualitative in nature. These empirical observations are often unique to a locality, whereas western science’s observations are often applied without a connection to a specific place.

The range of knowledge contained in TEK can be compared to its western counterparts of Ecology and Conservation Biology. With specific empirical examples being documented in population biology, climate fluctuations, adaptive management, and ethnotaxonomy.

The TEK of the Potawatomi peoples is centered on our Great Lakes homelands in the Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, but can also be applied to neighboring the Great Lakes Canadian Province of Ontario where Bodewadmi First Nations exist.


Berkes, F., J. Colding, and C. Folke. (2003). Navigating social-ecological systems: Building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. (2002). Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Biological Education: A Call to Action. BioScience. 52. 432-438.

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