Traditional Environmental Knowledge

What is Traditional Environmental Knowledge and why is it important?

Traditional and local knowledge refers to knowledge held by individuals and collectively by communities that may be based on spiritual teachings, personal observation and experience, or passed on from one generation to another through oral and/or written traditions. As a result, it is dynamic, substantive and distinct living knowledge.

Traditional and local knowledge may, for example, contribute to the description of the existing physical, biological and human environments, natural cycles, resource distribution and abundance, long and short-term trends, and the use of lands and land and water resources. It may also contribute to project siting and design, identification of issues, the evaluation of potential effects and their significance, the effectiveness of proposed mitigation, cumulative effects and the consideration of follow-up and monitoring programs.

Traditional knowledge is rooted in the traditional life of Aboriginal people. Certain issues are firmly grounded in traditional knowledge, such as harvesting, use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, cultural well-being, heritage resources, and others.

Although the basis for traditional and local knowledge and science-based knowledge can differ, they may on their own or together, contribute to the understanding of these issues.

From “Draft Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement”, pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, January 2012.