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Using indigenous knowledge in resource management: knowledge of salmon in the upper St’át’imc (Lillooet, B.C.) DeShield, Coral Ginger


Recognition and use of indigenous knowledge in resource management can increase the information available about the resource and facilitate establishment of a larger management role for local resource users. This paper examines the use of indigenous knowledge in resource management using the case of knowledge of Pacific salmon {Oncorhynchus spp.) among the Upper St'at'imc, near Lillooet, British Columbia (B.C.). Salmon in the study area are currently managed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). This system was established in the 1940s and overlays a traditional management system consisting of fishing site ownership, a well-defined system of access to sites, rules of conduct at fishing sites for the catching and processing of fish, and harvest restrictions. Recent DFO policy changes, signified by the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, indicate a movement toward a larger management role for First Nations. This study addresses what indigenous knowledge is available, how it compares to knowledge used by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and how indigenous knowledge can be used in modern salmon stock management. A literature review was supplemented by interviews with elders, young Upper St'at'imc leaders, and both DFO and non-DFO biologists. Current indigenous knowledge pertains to salmon stocks, habitat, and practices and philosophy. Indigenous knowledge can be primarily distinguished from western scientific knowledge on the basis of the following properties of the indigenous system: a greater amount of qualitative vs. quantitative information; an obvious recognition and discussion of anomalies; the perception of a wide range of variables in a region; the use of specific local technology; the development of analysis based on both observations over a medium-sized area and traditional ideologies; and differences in institutional arrangements for gathering knowledge. Differences between indigenous and western scientific knowledge are related to the requirement that DFO accumulate and process a large amount of information over a very large geographical area. Several barriers exist to using indigenous knowledge in modern resource management, including the fact that indigenous knowledge does not fit readily into established methods for gathering and analyzing data. Using indigenous knowledge may be facilitated by innovations at both the local and state levels.

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