Water: Traditional Knowledge

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Recognising the value of Traditional Knowledge is an ongoing project.  The United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies Traditional Knowledge Project contributed to the 5th World Water Forum in 2009.  The proceedings published on their web site give a hint of the depth of this area.

There are various reports bringing traditional knowledge to bear on national and international water policy, including Northern Voices, Northern Waters from the North West Territories, the Anishinabek Report from Ontario and A Policy Statement on North Australian Indigenous Water Rights.

What is striking about all of these documents is that the meaning of water rights is deeply embedded in beliefs, cultural histories and traditional knowledge, but that the recommendations are framed in the modern management language of leadership, recommendations and executive summaries.  This ability to frame critical issues with respect and also with impact is a particular strength of the voice of indigenous peoples: Gavin Renwick relates that the Elders talk about the need to be “strong like two people” meaning to be strong in the western culture, and also strong in the traditional culture.

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