Billy Adams reading CTD data in Utqiagvik. Photo credit: Joshua Jones.

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Increasingly Indigenous knowledge holders and scientists have been working together to provide evidence to help make decisions about how to best manage wildlife and the environment. There are many reasons Indigenous knowledge should inform our decisions about natural systems, including the value and utility of this information and the need for equity and representation of Indigenous peoples in decision-making. Indigenous people inhabit 25% of the land surface, they have strong links to their environment, and they can provide unique insights into natural systems.

Indigenous knowledge is increasingly used in decision-making at many levels from developing international policy on biodiversity to local decisions about how to manage wildlife. However, as scientists and decision-makers work with Indigenous knowledge holders and use their knowledge, they must do so in a way that reflects the needs of Indigenous knowledge holders. This should lead to better decisions and more equitable and productive partnerships.

The best way to understand how to work with Indigenous knowledge is to ask Indigenous knowledge holders and organisations, and local experts who work with Indigenous knowledge. While the details of how best to do this work varies from place to place, there are also some general principles that might apply over larger areas. We therefore posed these questions to people in these roles across the Arctic.

To improve the use of Indigenous knowledge with science, most people asked prioritised transformative change that deeply addresses inequities between Indigenous knowledge holders and others involved in decision-making. Technological solutions such as new ways of recording information were also valued but were less of a priority. Transformative change involves things deep in the system, that can be hard to change such as: culture, values, the way people think about Indigenous knowledge, and the institutions involved in decision-making and what determines how they operate. Western science has certain approaches of its own and ensuring Indigenous knowledge was not solely made to fit these was important. Being aware of the past, recognising how Indigenous people have been treated, and how this affects the use of their knowledge today is increasingly a responsibility for scientists and decision-makers.

Dr. Edda Mutter, YRITWC scientist downloading ALN data in the permafrost. Photo credit: Maryann Fidel.