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For more information, please contact us at:

Environmental Studies Program
Jeannette Rankin Hall 106A
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812-4320
Tel: (406) 243-6273
Fax: (406) 243-6090
Email: evst@mso.umt.edu

About the Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples Focus Area


Native woman in field near forest

The Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples focus within the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana is unique, and like all parts of the Program, interdisciplinary in approach and activist in focus.

Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples (also called Traditional Ecological Knowledge or Indigenous Knowledge) refers to, "The evolving knowledge acquired by indigenous and local peoples over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with the environment. This knowledge is specific to a location and includes the relationships between plants, animals, natural phenomena, landscapes.... It encompasses the world view of indigenous people which includes ecology, spirituality, human and animal relationships, and more." (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013)

This focus offers an overview of relevant scholarship for students first learning about the field. Students will learn about different methodologies and analytical approaches to explore the role of Traditional Environmental Knowledge within the lives of historic and contemporary Native peoples and their communities. Governmental agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency are now incorporating Traditional Environmental Knowledge within their frameworks, which makes it essential for Native and non-Native citizens and advocates to understand its role within community problem solving.

The culminating project for the Traditional Environmental Knowledge focus can be a thesis, professional paper, or portfolio. Students will coordinate with the Traditional Environmental Knowledge focus advisor to select course work within Environmental Studies and other disciplines.

Faculty contact: Rosalyn LaPier

Courses within Environmental Studies:

ENST 303 (NASX 303E) - Ecological Perspectives in Native American Traditions
Offered Autumn and Spring. An examination of Native American environmental ethics and tribal and historical and contemporary use of physical environmental resources.

ENST 491 Nature and Native Americans
Offered Autumn and Spring. An examination of environmental knowledge of Native Americans and their relationship with nature to provide a foundation for understanding contemporary environmental issues within Native American communities. The course explores how Native peoples found meaning within nature and how nature helped shape their reality.

ENST 594 Environmental Issues of Native Americans
Offered Spring. This course will provide a historic overview of federal policies toward Native Americans (in the West) during the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on three topics: land, water, and minerals and the environmental issues engendered from these policies.

Other courses within the University:

NASX 403 - Contemporary Tribal Resource Issues
Offered intermittently. Acquaints students with contemporary tribal resource management and environmental policies.

NASX 475X (PSCI 475) - Tribal Sovereignty
Offered intermittently. An examination of the evolution of tribal governments from a historical and political perspective. Particular attention is devoted to the issues of tribal sovereignty and tribal-state conflicts.

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