“Indigenous Epistemology and
Scientific Discovery”
N. Gaugau Tavana, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University
(801) 422-1635
tavana@...
Indigenous Epistemology
Traditional behaviors are shaped by
indigenous epistemologies or traditional
way of thinking, crea...
Cultural Values
 Cultures and Languages is a storehouse of
Indigenous Wisdom (IW)
 Loss of biological resources is a threat to the
survi...
Early Polynesian Settlements
1. Cultures and Languages: A
Storehouse of Indigenous
Wisdom
Faiva o le tai (fishing and
gathering in the ocean
Faiva o le...
T R O P I C ST R O P I C S
Languages & cultures provide
understanding of biosphere on which we
depend for survival
Indigenous epistemology is acquired
through daily experimentation and
practice
Cultures transmit indigenous wisdom
Culture ofCulture of
voyagingvoyaging
10
Explicit Knowledge
Knowledge that is easy to communicate
“know what” (facts); “know why” (science);
“know who” (networking)
Tacit Knowledge
Knowledge that is hard to access,
provides context, highly valuable,
and is not easily shared
Codification
Process of transforming tacit knowledge into
explicit knowledge through training and direct
experience
Codification
Will IndigenousWill Indigenous
Wisdom Survive theWisdom Survive the
2121stst
Century?Century?
2. Loss of biodiversity means loss of
languages and cultures
Weaving ma’ilo
(food plate)
Cocos nucifera
Making taufolo
Art...
A threat to Indigenous Wisdom
And deeper understanding of
the natural world…
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
6000
1900 2000
• Languages contain
explicit information
• Languages are
disappearing
Indigenous...
0
20
40
60
80
100
Spoken only
by elderly
people
Children
20%
80%
Remaining indigenous languagesRemaining indigenous langua...
3. Indigenous epistemology is key to
modern scientific discoveries
ethnomedicine
ethnotaxonomy
21
“If a man plants
10 (breadfruit)
trees in his life
he would
completely fulfill
his duty to his
own as well as
future
gener...
“What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name
Would smell as sweet.”
(Romeo & Juliet, Act ii, Scene 1)
Th...
How Are Plants Named?
Prior to Linnaeus, there
was great confusion about
how to name plants.
Organisms were usually
grou...
Nomenclature of Breadfruit
Cultivars in Samoa
Invented by
Linnaeus in
response to
cumbersome
18th
century
systems
First us...
Nomenclature of Breadfruit
Cultivars in Samoa
• Binomial nomenclature
consists of two names:
Artocarpus altilis
Genus spec...
The Convergence of Indigenous &
Scientific Taxonomy - Results
• 46 different varieties named
• Binomials & monomials used:...
Rank Order – Frequency of Mention
Name Rank Percent Type Translation
ma'afala 1 90 UM
puou 2 81 UM
aveloloa 3 68 UM
maopo ...
Expert wisdom is disappearing fastExpert wisdom is disappearing fast
 Mean # names: 6.3
 Expert mean # names:11.5
0
5
10...
“Masi”
Preservation of
Culturally
Important Food
Nutritional analyses to identify nutrient-
rich varieties.
Molecular studies to help identify
clones.
In vitro propagation...
In vitro Regeneration and
Mass Propagation
Totipotency
1
2
3
In vitro propagation
In Vitro Germplasm Conservation
3-6 months
2-3 months
2 months
6 weeks
2-4 weeks
4-6 Years
Plants, Medicine & Biodiversity
265,000 flowering plant
species in the world
 85% of world depends on
phytotherapy
 25% of all prescription
drugs derive from plants
 <1% of plants have been
studie...
Ethnomedical knowledge developed
over years of experimentation
Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds
William Withering 1785
• Reduces dropsy
• Reduces heart rate
Digitalis
Digitalis purpurea (F...
Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds
Hypertension
Reserpine
Rauwolfia serpentina
Indian Snake-Root
Apocynaceae
Emil Schlittler
An...
Catharanthus roseus
Rosy periwinkle
Apocynaceae
Child leukemia
Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds
Hodgkin’s disease
Islands of ...
Ethnobotanical DiscoveryEthnobotanical Discovery
Future Promise
Anti - viral
Anti – alzheimers
Anti –inflammatory
Erythrin...
Ethnobotanical Discovery Future
Promise
Dr. Paul A. Cox
discovered ‘Prostratin’
while speaking with a
taulasea - Samoan
he...
Indigenous wisdom and science gaugau tavana
Indigenous wisdom and science gaugau tavana
Indigenous wisdom and science gaugau tavana
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Indigenous wisdom and science gaugau tavana

  1. 1. “Indigenous Epistemology and Scientific Discovery” N. Gaugau Tavana, Ph.D. Brigham Young University (801) 422-1635 tavana@byu.edu Elon University March 17, 2014 Language Acquisition: Knowledge that Empowers
  2. 2. Indigenous Epistemology Traditional behaviors are shaped by indigenous epistemologies or traditional way of thinking, creating, and conveying knowledge. Indigenous epistemologies are alive and well and are also relevant and useful to the societies to whom they belong
  3. 3. Cultural Values
  4. 4.  Cultures and Languages is a storehouse of Indigenous Wisdom (IW)  Loss of biological resources is a threat to the survival of IW, cultures and languages  IW is key to scientific discoveries and basic to understanding of the natural world  IW can be restored through local, national and international collaborative efforts  Educational programs greatly help with this work
  5. 5. Early Polynesian Settlements
  6. 6. 1. Cultures and Languages: A Storehouse of Indigenous Wisdom Faiva o le tai (fishing and gathering in the ocean Faiva o le vao (hunting and gathering on land
  7. 7. T R O P I C ST R O P I C S Languages & cultures provide understanding of biosphere on which we depend for survival
  8. 8. Indigenous epistemology is acquired through daily experimentation and practice
  9. 9. Cultures transmit indigenous wisdom
  10. 10. Culture ofCulture of voyagingvoyaging 10
  11. 11. Explicit Knowledge Knowledge that is easy to communicate “know what” (facts); “know why” (science); “know who” (networking)
  12. 12. Tacit Knowledge Knowledge that is hard to access, provides context, highly valuable, and is not easily shared
  13. 13. Codification Process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge through training and direct experience
  14. 14. Codification
  15. 15. Will IndigenousWill Indigenous Wisdom Survive theWisdom Survive the 2121stst Century?Century?
  16. 16. 2. Loss of biodiversity means loss of languages and cultures Weaving ma’ilo (food plate) Cocos nucifera Making taufolo Artocarpus altilis Taupou’s dress Pandanus tectorius
  17. 17. A threat to Indigenous Wisdom And deeper understanding of the natural world…
  18. 18. 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 1900 2000 • Languages contain explicit information • Languages are disappearing Indigenous Language LossIndigenous Language Loss
  19. 19. 0 20 40 60 80 100 Spoken only by elderly people Children 20% 80% Remaining indigenous languagesRemaining indigenous languages 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 N. American Languages 280 20 Spoken only by elderly people Children
  20. 20. 3. Indigenous epistemology is key to modern scientific discoveries ethnomedicine ethnotaxonomy
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. “If a man plants 10 (breadfruit) trees in his life he would completely fulfill his duty to his own as well as future generations.” Sir Joseph Banks 1796
  23. 23. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name Would smell as sweet.” (Romeo & Juliet, Act ii, Scene 1) The Convergence of Indigenous & Scientific Taxonomy
  24. 24. How Are Plants Named? Prior to Linnaeus, there was great confusion about how to name plants. Organisms were usually grouped by common characteristics. Sometimes unrelated organisms with superficial resemblances were grouped together.
  25. 25. Nomenclature of Breadfruit Cultivars in Samoa Invented by Linnaeus in response to cumbersome 18th century systems First used in Flora Lapponica Expounded in Species Plantarum & used to organize Uppsala garden
  26. 26. Nomenclature of Breadfruit Cultivars in Samoa • Binomial nomenclature consists of two names: Artocarpus altilis Genus species • International Code of Botanical Nomenclature • Used by scientists throughout the world.
  27. 27. The Convergence of Indigenous & Scientific Taxonomy - Results • 46 different varieties named • Binomials & monomials used: Binomial: ‘Ulu ma’a Generic term specific modifier Monomial: Ø maopo Generic term specific (understood) modifier
  28. 28. Rank Order – Frequency of Mention Name Rank Percent Type Translation ma'afala 1 90 UM puou 2 81 UM aveloloa 3 68 UM maopo 4 62 UM ulu ea 5 56 AB “Uvea island” ulu ma’a 6 55 AB “solid” ulu manu'a 7 37 AB “Manu’a ” momolega 8 33 UM ulu sina 9 22 AB “white” sagosago 10 17 UM
  29. 29. Expert wisdom is disappearing fastExpert wisdom is disappearing fast  Mean # names: 6.3  Expert mean # names:11.5 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 # reported names #respondents common knowledge expert knowledge Two knowledge realms found: common and expert
  30. 30. “Masi” Preservation of Culturally Important Food
  31. 31. Nutritional analyses to identify nutrient- rich varieties. Molecular studies to help identify clones. In vitro propagation. Product development, e.g., flour. Base-line inventories of distribution and use of breadfruit in Africa.
  32. 32. In vitro Regeneration and Mass Propagation Totipotency 1 2 3
  33. 33. In vitro propagation
  34. 34. In Vitro Germplasm Conservation 3-6 months 2-3 months 2 months 6 weeks 2-4 weeks 4-6 Years
  35. 35. Plants, Medicine & Biodiversity 265,000 flowering plant species in the world
  36. 36.  85% of world depends on phytotherapy  25% of all prescription drugs derive from plants  <1% of plants have been studied Wisdom of Plants and Medicine  265,000 flowering plant species in the world
  37. 37. Ethnomedical knowledge developed over years of experimentation
  38. 38. Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds William Withering 1785 • Reduces dropsy • Reduces heart rate Digitalis Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) “I was told…it had long been a kept secret remedy of an old woman in Shropshire”
  39. 39. Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds Hypertension Reserpine Rauwolfia serpentina Indian Snake-Root Apocynaceae Emil Schlittler Analyzing Ayurvedic traditional remedies used by people of Indian
  40. 40. Catharanthus roseus Rosy periwinkle Apocynaceae Child leukemia Ethnobotanical Lead Compounds Hodgkin’s disease Islands of Madagascar
  41. 41. Ethnobotanical DiscoveryEthnobotanical Discovery Future Promise Anti - viral Anti – alzheimers Anti –inflammatory Erythrina Wiliwili Homalanthus mamala Cycad Lau pama
  42. 42. Ethnobotanical Discovery Future Promise Dr. Paul A. Cox discovered ‘Prostratin’ while speaking with a taulasea - Samoan healer
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