What is Indigenous Knowledge?
Indigenous knowledge is an emerging area of study that focuses on the ways of knowing, seeing, and thinking that are passed down orally from generation to generation. These ways of understanding reflect thousands of years of experimentation and innovation in topics like agriculture, animal husbandry, child rearing practices, education systems, medicine, and natural resource management—among many other categories. These ways of knowing are particularly important in the era of globalization, a time in which indigenous knowledge as intellectual property is taking new significance in the search for answers to many of the world’s most vexing problems: disease, famine, ethnic conflict, and poverty. Indigenous knowledge has value, not only for the culture in which it develops, but also for scientists and planners seeking solutions to community problems.
Development professionals treasure this local knowledge, finding it extremely useful in solving complex problems of health, agriculture, education, and the environment, both in developed and in developing countries.
Teepees at the National Museum of the American
Indian, SW, Washington, D.C. Photograph by Carol
M. Highsmith for the Smithsonian Institution