IKAP Topic Groups
The Topic Working Groups are IKAP's way of organizing different aspects of Indigenous Knowledgefor discussion, exchange, and activities. Topic working groups facilitate networks of exchange,
joint research and advocacy surrounding the issues of culture
and bio-diversity by protecting, preserving and promoting
Indigenous Knowledge. The Topic Working Groups currently
in operation are Arts and Handicrafts, Food and Food Preparation, Herbal Medicine and Healers, Indigenous Language and Scripts, Music and Dance, Traditional Agriculture and Seeds , and traditional architecture. While Indigenous Education
is included in this section, we do not understand it as a topic in iteself but as a thread connecting all aspects of IK and its transmission to the younger generation. We also have a special focus on Children and Youth as well as Shaman and Elders.
What is Indigenous Knowledge (IK)?
Indigenous Knowledge (IK) can be broadly defined as the knowledge that an indigenous (local) community accumulates over generations of living in a particular environment. This definition encompasses all forms of knowledge – technologies, know-how, skills, practices and beliefs – that enable the community to achieve stable livelihoods in their environment. A number of terms are used interchangeably to refer to the concept of IK, including Traditional Knowledge (TK), Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK), Local Knowledge (LK) and Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS). IK can be understood in terms of its affirmation of ethnic identity and dynamics in responding to a changing environment.
The IKAP network joins together with indigenous communities to create their own space for self-definition of their identities and valuing of indigenous knowledge. IKAP’s approaches are based on IPs’ knowledge and wisdom, our ways of life, values, spirituality and cosmology in everyday practice in order to find solutions to the challenges we face and to represent ourselves from our own perspectives. IKAP currently has topic groups which we organize around certain aspects of IK.
Who are Indigenous People (IP)?
The concept of IK is inextricably linked to Indigenous Peoples (IP). We IP in the IKAP network are people, communities, and nations who claim a historical continuity and cultural affinity with the pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies which developed on our original territories, and therefore consider ourselves distinct from societies of the majority culture(s) that have contested our cultural sovereignty and right to self-determination. We have historically formed and still currently form the minority/non-dominant sectors within majority-culture societies. We intend to continue preserving, reviving, and enhancing the efficacy, cohesion, and uniqueness of our traditional social values and customary ties alongside making a conscious effort to transmit this knowledge to future generations.
Topic Working Groups include:
Arts and Handicrafts
Sharing knowledge and recuperating techniques before they are completely forgotten or replaced by the use of chemicals should be an immediate task to engage in. The regional network should revive traditions, share information, improve the quality of products and promote access to local markets. The emphasis of the artisans network lies on the revival and recreation of crafts for self-reliance, within the strategy to affirm cultures and conserve biodiversity, and not to promote commercial production for export or tourist markets.
The working group will elaborate a concept on the strategies for establishing the regional network, its participants, its principles, and steps to promote it. This topic group primarily focuses, but not exclusively, on women's knowledge and livelihoods. >>Back to top
Ceremonies and Spirits
Information to be added soon.
>>Back to top
Food and Food Preparation
So much our physical, mental, emotional, social, cultural and even spirtual sustinence
comes from the production, preparation and consumption of foods. Some of our deepest relationships and traidtions are based around meals. >>Back to top
Herbal Medicine and Healers
Exchanging health practices can be very puzzling because each ethnic group has a particular tradition. The Yi, for example, easily know of more than 150 medicinal plants and their curing practices with the ghosts boards. They are so complex and varied that one has to live long in order to implement that wisdom. The Naxi might know the same plants but use them differently. Also in contrast with the Yi, the Naxi avoid talking about rituals and spiritual connections related to health practices. The Hmong are known for their gentle application of herbs with no side effects and the Nung concentrate more on curing with metal and horn as opposed to plants.
All diverse types of ethnic healing systems are facing common challenges: access to the forest is being dramatically reduced; home gardens are redesigned as cash crop providers, our knowledge is contested with mass health education campaigns; air, water and soil are polluted with chemicals that cause allergies and illnesses we can not cure by our own means.
What can be done to confront all these threatening aspects? Certainly, new communication channels can be opened between the old and the young to recover skills and knowledge in our communities and get actively involved in the recognition of our rights as preservers of diverse medicinal knowledge embedded in our ethnic cultures. Someone (or a group of people) with power has to stop the trans-national pharmaceutical companies from utilizing our people to bio- prospect our medicinal resources and practices
A process of Affirmation of Cultures and Biodiversity Conservation is an opportunity for the Healers of different cultural backgrounds to identify the main characteristics of their health systems by themselves. It is a chance to think about what has changed, what continues, what they want to keep as health practices to transmit to the next generations for a sustainable life, without giving up each own cultural identity and knowledge about plants and other healing elements. >>Back to top
Indigenous Languages and Scripts
Language is the key element towards cultural transmission, maintenance and revival. One of IKAP's focuses is to promote the instruction and use of Indigenous languages as well as encouraging the development of scripts >>Back to top
Music and Dance
Music and Dance embodies all aspects of Indigenous life, culture and identitfy and is a key element to cutlural continuity and survival. >>Back to top
Traditional Agriculture and Seeds
Rotational Farming/Shifting Cultivation (RF/SC) is a cultural and physical integration of forest and agriculture; it is indigenous agriculture. It is one type of agro-forestry which stresses the connection between the agricultural system and the ecosystem. RF incorporates the dynamics of management and continuous adaptation required by the ecosystem. The fields become fallow, allowing for the regeneration of the soil and land. The fallow land then begins another cycle of farming, the fallow period promoting rich nutrients and balancing the land, water and forest to provide for a continuing system of agriculture. The cycle aids the regeneration of fauna, flora and consequent biodiversity, conserving both animals and plants. For example, Indigenous communities in Thailand are able to make use of more than 200 plant species due to the 6 to 10 years of fallow (Anan et al, 2004). Moreover, RF is not a stand-alone system, but is integrated with other systems in the community, such as terraced paddy fields, kitchen gardens, animal husbandry, hunting and gathering, and so on. For a more comprehensive understanding, read Rotational Farming Concept Paper . >>Back to top
Information to be added soon.
Indigenous Education (Read IE Project Info Sheet)
Throughout the history of mainland Southeast Asia, there have been numerous indigenous groups residing in the mountainous areas. These ethnic highlanders live very different lives from that of the lowland dwellers. By means of adaptation to the environment and cultural exchange, indigenous knowledge has been accumulated through a long line of generations. The transmission of traditional culture and indigenous knowledge has long been operated in the form of informal education. It is well noticed that the traditional learning style has always been revolving around various skills of indigenous livelihood as well as a certain set of social values based on the traditional belief system.
With the emergence of the nation-state, the provision of education has been taken care of by the State as part of its social services. In early twentieth century, education had undergone the efforts towards standardization and centralization with the aim of paving the way to industrial ideology. However, the impact of the formal school system on the traditional indigenous lifestyle has been tremendous in the sense that it has disrupted various indigenous and local communities into disintegration. Through the school system, the people of the younger generation no longer learn the knowledge, skills, and attitude of their indigenous society. In fact, indigenous school students are taught to look down upon their own traditional culture. As a consequence, social relationships, based on the kinship system commonly practiced among various indigenous communities, have been broken. Natural resources are degraded through new agricultural practices and technology, and indigenous and local communities are encountering more serious social problems all the time.
Towards the latter half of 20th century, it was realized that a formal school system was not transforming the indigenous people into a modern citizens integrated into mainstream society; but rather it was creating a new generation of marginalised people. Subsequently, there was an indigenous movement for cultural revitalization. It marked the beginning of an era when indigenous people and their advocates were looking for an alternative form of education. Multi-ethnic and multicultural education and alternative education were referred to with the implication of a request to respect indigenous knowledge and culture.
Indigenous education is used here to refer to several aspects; it is related to certain elements. Firstly, it is regarded as alternative education emphasizing indigenous learning styles. Learning by doing in a lively environment is valued above classroom confinement, and community-based education is preferred as it allows more participation and locally indigenous administration and control. Secondly, indigenous education reflects more focus on local context of land-and-people relationship by means of indigenous knowledge. Thirdly, it is also interested in interpersonal relationships by means of language, festivities and recreation. Lastly, it must be regarded that indigenous education is primarily a right-based approach where indigenous identity is both a human rights and social obligation. As a point of departure, indigenous education is not against new knowledge, but seeks always to integrate indigenous with new knowledge to bring about a better understanding of a peaceful coexistence among diverse cultural identities.
The assumption that integrating indigenous knowledge (IK) into local school curricula is both a positive and possible strategy is an issue for further debate. The concern is that the structure and methods of what could be described as ‘conventional Western-style education’ are fundamentally anti-ethical to the system of transmitting traditional knowledge practiced within indigenous communities. Thus the simple allocation of a percentage of school time to the teaching of IK ignores the fact that a Western-style education inherently subverts and debases the value of IK. On the other hand, there are those that argue that barring the complete deconstruction and overhaul of the school system – which is very unlikely to happen – the most practical solution is to integrate IK into the curriculum and to work to raise its prestige within the current education system. This fundamental debate over whether (and if so, how) IK can be taught in schools is of crucial importance and merits further discussion in forthcoming meetings. >>Back to top
IKAP places a special focus on the oldest and youngest generations in our Indigenous communities. While we are concerned on all members of our Indigenous communities, our special focus is on:
Indigenous Children and Youth
The network members and a group of organisations working with indigenous communities are engaged in promoting indigenous knowledge research of young people by training small research teams to discover and learn the knowledge of elders. They collect the knowledge, practice the skills within their own communities, document IK in representations and testimonies, and take photos and videos to share within their own ethnic groups and with young people from other ethnic groups. >>Back to top
Shamans and Elders
As traditional ways of knowledge transmission are eroded because of varying external pressures, it is crucial that the knowledge and roles of our Shamans and Elders are promoted and protected. One of IKAP's key activities is to encourage communitiesto collect the knowledge of Shamen and Elders as the root of our work with IKAP to the IPs communities. Secondly, to enhance and strengthen elders and Sharman roles back to their traditional positions and they have role to create space of knowledge and culture in IPs communities. Thirdly, crease space for the young people to learn and aware of their roots and identity. In the last our elders have space for transfer their knowledge to the new generation to be proud and confident to their life based on their own identity to have dignity and power in their life. >>Back to top