Michelle Pollowitz

Project title: Indigenous One Health: Connecting Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Environmental Health (EH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2023 | Faculty advisor: Julianne Meisner


The One Health approach, which assesses the interconnectedness of animal, human, and environmental health, fails to include and amplify Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous scientists. To effectively center Indigenous knowledge next to and within the One Health approach, which is historically based in Western science, the gaps and overlaps between Indigenous science, specifically Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and One Health must be explored. By encouraging the Indigenous method of Two-Eyed Seeing through collaboration between Indigenous and Western scientists, One Health must shift its framework to uphold Indigenous values. The objective of this project is to identify values in Indigenous science that are missing or underrepresented in Western science, and then collaboratively ideate actions that Western scientists can take as allies to center and support Indigenous sciences, models, and language so that Indigenous knowledge is elevated. From January to March 2023, the study team conducted semi-structured interviews with Indigenous scientists and knowledge keepers via Zoom video calls. Indigenous participants in the continental United States and Hawaiian Islands were recruited through Indigenous academic listservs, direct outreach to individuals interested in the project, and referrals from Indigenous leaders who had participated in a prior round of interviews in 2022. In that round of interviews, four themes emerged and called for further exploration of Indigenous perspectives on how 1) the natural world, 2) cultural heritage, 3) value expression, and 4) reflection influence worldviews and relationships to animals and other beings in the environment. These ideas were reframed into questions asked in a subsequent round of interviews in 2023. Theme identification methods were used to highlight recurrent and key ideas throughout the interviews. Participants noted gaps between their Indigenous worldviews and the One Health model, particularly relating to contrast with Western culture, holistic expression, power in action, identity and belonging, maintaining community and cultural practices, and sharing information/education. It was also noted that One Health must do more than uplift Indigenous values to support Indigenous scientists, such as collaborating with Traditional Ecological Knowledge keepers and encouraging practices that are inclusive and validating of other knowledge systems. Interview responses highlighted Indigenous principles that are missing from One Health practice. These principles were transformed into actions items for Western researchers to recognize, support, and amplify Indigenous science and scientists. Adoption of the action items would foster and strengthen collaboration between One Health practitioners and TEK keepers. Scientific practice is dominated by Western perspectives, but all must work together to help promote and protect Indigenous ways of knowing.


URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/50394