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Traditional Knowledge (TK)

Last updated December 25, 2021

Strategic translation: pollution, data, and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge by Sarah Blacker

We look to ‘Water is a living thing’ as a case study. Here, two First Nations communities “chose to partially translate their knowledge into data because doing so enabled them to enter into dialogue with policy-makers – with data as the lingua franca - to participate in science, and to retain control over their own data.”

This is an act of protest against the settler colonial state.

Data as a form of partial translation which serves as a boundary object

Science is not apolitical, nor measurement neutral.

McLachlan’s three-track method

Some argue that “local knowledge is altered when it is removed from ‘its embeddedness in a holistic cultural and political context’ so that it can be made comparable, classifiable, and commensurable”

[S]cientists look at very thin slices of stuff. They don’t look at the whole book, they look at one word on a page and try to define. Somebody’s got to put the book together. But if you can’t see the whole book, you can’t do it. That’s the trouble with scientists. Where the traditional knowledge is like you have the whole book. You may not be able to say exactly why, what causes this, what causes that. But you can sure see the changes.

Seems to mutual distrust between First Nations groups and government + industry

  1. First Nations groups don’t trust govt + industry as the data they collect is not holistic and doesn’t incorporate TK
  2. Government + industry doesn’t trust First Nations as they doubt their scientific abilities and incapability of producing ‘objective’ data

Did not end up working under Harper government, but First Nations communities were undeterred.

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