Indigenous knowledge systemts is a new area of knowledge for 2015, and involves a huge body of knowledge, ideas, and beliefs. The fact that it was only recent included prompts us to consider the nature of the knowledge it represents. There are two elements to what it represents: the ‘indigenous’ aspect, and the knowledge coming with that. Chambers dictionary says of the first…
adj 1 biol said of plants or animals: belonging naturally to or occurring naturally in a country or area; native. 2 said of a person: born in a region, area, country, etc. indigenously adverb.
ETYMOLOGY: 17c: from Latin indigenus, from indigena an original inhabitant.
The key phrase to grasp is ‘belonging naturally to’. When we explore indigenous knowledge systems, we are exploring local knowledge that belongs to a specific society or culture, such as the Innuit group of cultures in North America; Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian groups in the Pacific; and the Pygmy peoples of Central Africa. The list of such groups is, of course, huge; Wikipedia offers a very comprehensive one, which can be seen here. Although their knowledge belongs to them, we have to be very aware of its dynamism, and the way in which it has developed over time as it has come into contact with knowledge from other cultures such as European colonizers.
Knowledge questions include: What role does memory play in the construction of indigenous knowledge systems? In what ways has exposure to foreign cultures benefitted and damaged indigenous knowledge systems? What ethical framework should we use to explore indigenous knowledge systems?