Polar Record


Scale, context, and application of traditional knowledge of the Canadian north

Frank Duerdena1 and Richard G. Kuhna2

a1 School of Applied Geography, Ryerson Polytechnic University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2K3, Canada

a2 Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada


There is strong contemporary interest in the application of traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) of physical environments and land-use patterns in northern Canada. This interest relates to land claims, land-use planning, cultural preservation, resource management, and environmental monitoring. The application of TEK to land and resource management is critically examined and a typology relating scale, user group, and the transformation of knowledge is developed. Of the many challenges facing the incorporation of TEK in resource-management initiatives, perhaps the greatest is the recognition of the appropriateness of scale. The conclusions reached in this paper reaffirm the notion that scale and context are key components in maintaining the validity and integrity of TEK. The primary role of TEK appears to be with providing the most valid and intelligible interpretations of local geographies and prescribing locally appropriate resource-management strategies.

(Received February 1996)