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Anpernirrentye: a Framework for Enhanced Application of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge in Natural Resource Management

Fiona J. Walsh, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Perrurle V. Dobson, senior Arrernte woman
Josie C. Douglas, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences


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Robust approaches to natural resource management (NRM) in indigenous cross-cultural contexts require coherent understandings of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) systems. We synthesize a framework to represent the traditionally derived worldview of Arrernte Aboriginal people within which IEK is embedded. This is an ecology-focused worldview with three interrelated domains of knowledge that are intricately linked, comprising many complex dynamic elements that interact with each other. This worldview is from desert Australia but is relevant to those working in complex cross-cultural environments across Australia and internationally.

The visual framework presented fills an important conceptual gap in IEK documentation being positioned at a mesoconceptual scale. Comparisons between this knowledge framework and social–ecological systems theory indicate similarities in systems thinking, in explicit links between people and ecology, and in the emphasis on processes and relationships through causal loops and feedbacks. Important differences lie in the inextricable integration of economic and spiritual domains in the Arrernte worldview.

In Arrernte eyes, interrelationships between people, resource species, land, and spiritual domains are central to NRM. Scientific approaches commonly overlook or segregate elements of indigenous knowledge. The multiple values indigenous people attribute to species are often ignored or overridden, which contributes to decoupling within their knowledge system. Western scientists and natural resource managers are looking for better understandings of indigenous knowledge systems. The framework offers a tool that can be applied to both cross-cultural and intergenerational learning to improve NRM and people’s well-being and sense of self.

Key words

Aboriginal economy; Australia; biodiversity; bush foods; cultural values; desert; indigenous knowledge system; natural resource management; social–ecological system

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087