ESF establishes center on native peoples, environment
The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry recently established and dedicated a new Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, which will focus on developing new connections between traditional and scientific knowledge.
The center is the first of its kind in the northeast.
Announced to the public on Oct. 17, the Center for Native Peoples and Environment will concentrate on linking Western scientific environmental knowledge (SEK), currently the main focus at ESF, with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), which is the dominant practice of native peoples.
The center will begin to incorporate the new courses into ESF by the spring semester.
‘With the creation of the center, the main goal is to create programs that will use the knowledge of both the indigenous and scientific communities, in order to address environmental protection and restoration problems around our world,’ said Emanuel Carter, associate professor of landscape architecture. ‘The center will focus on new efforts to increase stewardship in the environment.’
In addition to the new knowledge that the center will explore, the main goal of the program is to integrate its ideals to the students, Carter said.
‘With the creation of the center, we (at ESF) hope to integrate multicultural perspectives into courses across the entire board, which will educate our students using two different methods of understanding scientific knowledge,’ Carter said.
The center will be run by an advisory board that consists of ESF environmental scientists, SU professors, environmental leaders from the Onondaga Nation and indigenous educators from around the world.
Members of the board include: Dr. Robin Kimmerer, an ESF botany professor who will chair the board; Henry Lickers, director of the Environment Division, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne; Jeanne Shenandoah and Irving Powless, environmental leaders from the Onondaga Nation; Carol Thomas, an ESF student from the Onondaga Nation; Jack Manno, an associate professor of environmental science at ESF and Carter.
‘The interesting thing about the board is that it doesn’t just include SUNY-ESF professors,’ Carter said. ‘It also includes SU people, Onondaga Nation representatives, and native peoples.’
According to the recommendations made by the center, ESF plans to expand its curriculum to include classes that will integrate the importance of TEK as a complement to SEK.
The recommendations later suggested that new courses include ethnobotany, plants and culture, indigenous issues and the environment and a seminar in TEK. They also suggested integrating TEK into courses across the curriculum to create a minor in Native Americans and the Environment.
‘Basically, we want to close the gaps between Western knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge,’ Manno said. ‘This belief is what makes the center special and unique among other national programs that focus on environmental and native people studies.’
In addition to the center’s creation, the advisory board confirmed that ESF will create new partnerships with Native peoples.
‘With the creation of the center, the advisory board created two new scholarships to be awarded annually to Native American students and created a partnership with the Onondaga Nation to promote local environmental issues,’ Carter said.
Overall, ESF hopes to benefit from the new Center.
‘It is a great opportunity to explore SEK and TEK, while making space for Native American students who can benefit from our program,’ Manno said. ‘As a scientific college, we hope that SU, the Onondaga Nation and Native peoples can create new opportunities while learning more about environmental issues and concerns.’
Many ESF students agree with the fundamental beliefs of the board.
‘It truly shows that we are dedicated to helping the environment not only traditionally, but scientifically,’ said sophomore environmental studies major Mike Ressler.
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