Local Perceptions of Changes in Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Case Study from Malekula Island, Vanuatu
- 511 Downloads
Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a critical global resource that may be eroding amid social and environmental change. Here, we present data on local perceptions of TEK change from three communities on Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Utilizing a structured interview (n = 120), we find a common perception of TEK loss. Participants defined two key periods of TEK erosion (roughly 1940–1960 and 1980–present), and noted that TEK decline was driven both external (e.g., church) and internal (e.g., shifting values) processes. Erosion was perceived to more comprehensive in the worldview domain than in aspects of ethnobiological knowledge and practice. These data indicate the perceived fragility of TEK systems and the complexity of TEK change. TEK systems are critical to natural resource management, and data such as these will assist in designing nuanced responses to the ongoing loss of cultural knowledge and practice.
KeywordsTraditional ecological knowledge Cultural change Trend analysis Vanuatu Malekula
We wish to acknowledge the generous assistance of collaborators and friends on Malekula. JM is grateful for financial backing from NZAID, Education New Zealand, the JL Stewart Foundation, and the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leader’s Fellowship between 2008 and 2012. This work was completed while both authors were based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
- Baeraleo, S. 2010. Teaching indigenous knowledge and resource management in the primary school. Port Vila: The Vanuatu National Cultural Council.Google Scholar
- Berkes, F. 2012. Sacred ecology: Traditional ecological knowledge and resource management, 3rd ed. London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
- Bernard, H.R. 1998. Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
- Bolton, L. 2003. Unfolding the Moon: Enacting Women’s Kastom in Vanuatu. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- Borgatti, S. 1996. Anthropac 4. Natick: Analytic Technologies.Google Scholar
- Boster, J. 1986. Exchange of varieties and information between Aguaruna Manioc cultivators. American Anthropologist 88: 429–436.Google Scholar
- Deacon, A.B. 1934. Malekula: A vanishing people in the New Hebrides. London: George Routledge.Google Scholar
- Godoy, R., N. Brokaw, D. Wilkie, D. Colon, A. Palermo, S. Lye, S. Sei, et al. 1998. Of trade and cognition: Markets and the loss of folk knowledge among the Tawahka Indians of the Honduran Rainforest. Journal of Anthropological Research 54: 219–234.Google Scholar
- Godoy, R., V. Reyes-Garcia, J. Broesch, I. Fitzpatrick, P. Giovanninni, M. Rodriguez, T. Huanca, et al. 2009. Long-term (secular) change of ethnobotanical knowledge of useful plants: Separating cohort and age effects. Journal of Anthropological Research 65: 51–67.Google Scholar
- Haccius, J. 2011. The interaction of modern and custom land tenure systems in Vanuatu. State, society and governance in Melanesia: Discussion Paper 2011/1. Canberra: ANU School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies.Google Scholar
- Hickey, F.R. 2006. Traditional marine resource management in Vanuatu: Acknowledging, supporting and strengthening indigenous management systems. SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management 11–23. http://www.sprep.org/att/irc/ecopies/countries/vanuatu/92.pdf.
- International Society of Ethnobiology. 2006. ISE Code of Ethics (with 2008 Additions). http://ethnobiology.net/code-of-ethics/code-in-english/.
- Kumar, S. 2002. Methods for community participation: A complete guide for practitioners. Warwickshire: Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
- Lynch, J., and T. Crowley. 2001. Languages of Vanuatu. Canberra: Pacific Linguists.Google Scholar
- MacClancy, J. 2002. To kill a bird with two stones. Port Vila: Vanuatu Cultural Centre.Google Scholar
- Maffi, L., and E. Woodley. 2010. Biocultural diversity conservation: A global sourcebook. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
- Nettle, D., and S. Romaine. 2000. Vanishing voices: The extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Niroa, J. 2004. Why we need to re-think Vanuatu education. In Re-thinking Vanuatu education together, ed. K. Sanga, J. Niroa, K. Matai, and L. Crowl. Port Vila: University of the South Pacific.Google Scholar
- Regenvanu, R. 2005. The changing face of ‘Custom’ in Vanuatu. People and Culture in Oceania 20.Google Scholar
- Smith, J. 1993. Using ANTHROPAC 3.5 and a Spreadsheet to Compute a Freelist Salience Index. Cultural Anthropology Methods Letter 5: 1–3.Google Scholar
- Tacconi, L., and J. Bennett. 1993. The forests of Vanuatu: An overview of their environmental and economic status. Sydney: Vanuatu Forest Conservation Research Reports: University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
- Tonkinson, R. 1982. National identity and the problem of Kastom in Vanuatu. Mankind 13: 306–315.Google Scholar
- Vanuatu Ministry of Education. 2010. Vanuatu National Curriculum Statement (Edited Draft). Port Vila: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
- VNSO (Vanuatu National Statistics Office). 2012. Alternative indicators of well-being for Melanesia: Vanuatu Pilot Study Report. Port Vila, Vanuatu: Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs.Google Scholar
- Zent, S. 2001. Acculturation and ethnobotanical knowledge loss among the Piaroa of Venezuela: Demonstration of a quantitative method for the empirical study of TEK change. In On biocultural diversity: Linking language, knowledge, and the environment, ed. L. Maffi. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Zent, S., and L. Maffi. 2009. Final Report on Indicator No. 2: Methodology for developing a vitality index of traditional environmental knowledge (VITEK) for the project “Global Indicators of the Status and Trends of Linguistic Diversity and Traditional Knowledge”, Terralingua. Retrieved 3 March, 2009, from http://terralingua.org/projects/vitek/VITEK_Report.pdf.