Polar Record

Research Article

Communicating traditional environmental knowledge: addressing the diversity of knowledge, audiences and media types

Eleanor Bonnya1 and Fikret Berkesa1

a1 Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, 70 Dysart Rd., Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada


Although there are a number of distinct audiences (for example students, hunter and trapper organisations, and co-management agencies) for traditional environmental knowledge, little work has been done in analysing how indigenous knowledge can be best communicated to these different groups. Using examples mainly from northern Canada and Alaska, we explore the challenge of collecting and communicating different kinds of traditional environmental knowledge; the media types or communication modes that can be used; and the appropriateness of these kinds of media for communicating with different audiences. A range of communication options is available, including direct interaction with knowledge holders, use of print media, maps, DVD/video, audio, CD ROM, and websites. These options permit a mix-and-match to find the best fit between kinds of knowledge, the intended audience, and the media type used. This paper does not propose to replace traditional methods of communication with technology. Rather, we examine how technology can serve community and other needs. No single option emerges as a clear best choice for communicating indigenous knowledge. Nevertheless, various media types offer avenues through which northern people can meet their educational, cultural, and political needs, and build cross-cultural understanding.

(Received November 2007)