OSU Hosts National Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Summit

Chuck Sams, Director of the National Park Service, and members of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will participate in tomorrow’s virtual National Traditional Ecological Knowledge Summit, hosted by an Oregon State University student group. 

Representing the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will be Gretchen Goldman, assistant director for environmental science, engineering, policy and justice; and Haley Case-Scott, a member of western Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians who, prior to being hired as a junior climate advisor to the White House last year, was a climate justice grassroots organizer with the Eugene-based nonprofit Beyond Toxics and the Eugene/Springfield NAACP. 

“They will deliver a presentation about TEK and what the White House is doing on these efforts, followed by a public listening session that they will conduct at the summit,” said Lara Jacobs, a PhD student in forestry and co-founder and chair of OSU’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Club, which is hosting the event. “This is a unique opportunity where people have an open mic to deliver comments directly to the White House.” 

The summit, which will be held via Zoom, runs May 10-12 and is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending should register online at https://beav.es/i38. 

Sams, who grew up on Eastern Oregon’s Umatilla Indian Reservation, has provided a recorded message for the summit. Sams is the first Native American to head the park service. 

TEK is the accumulation of information, practices and beliefs about relationships and environmental functions, including all elements, species and processes within ecosystems, said Jacobs, the president of OSU’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter. 

It’s acquired over multiple Indigenous generations through direct contact with the environment, she said. TEK is used in life-sustaining pursuits such hunting, fishing, trapping, agriculture and forestry and as a means to assess environmental health. 

TEK also encompasses the world view of Indigenous peoples, she added, including ecology, spirituality, and human, plant and animal connections. 

Jacobs, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, says the summit’s purpose is to foster discussion of TEK-related topics among Indigenous peoples and their governments, as well as scholars and allies. 

“We want to provide a place for talking about important issues, like scientific and managerial applications of TEK data, in respectful, non-extractive ways,” she said. 

Jacobs, the secretary of OSU’s Indigenous Grad Student Alliance, notes that the event speakers who present data gathered by Indigenous peoples will do so with the written consent of the people and governments they’ve worked with. 

The summit will also feature Indigenous authors, artists and scholars. Among them are visual artist Christi Belcourt, hoop dance artist Notorious Cree, as well as the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a Haisla hip-hop duo.  

Keynote speakers are Jessica Hernandez (Zapotec, Maya Ch’orti’), author of Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Sciences; Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi), a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University; and Pat Gonzales-Rogers, Executive Director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. 

Indigenous OSU faculty are among the presenters as well, including Cristina Eisenberg (Mexican and mixed Raramuri and Apache heritage), a TEK expert and forest community and wildlife ecologist who has a courtesy appointment in the College of Forestry; David Lewis (Chinook, Santiam, Takelma) and Luhui Whitebear (Coastal Band Chumash), assistant professors in the College of Liberal Arts; and Samantha Chisolm Hatfield (Siletz, Cherokee), a TEK specialist, Tribal liaison and research assistant at the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, and instructor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. 

For more information about the National Traditional Ecological Knowledge Summit, email TEKatOSU@gmail.com.