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Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge (IK), also known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), is a subset of Local Knowledge (LK) that is culturally embedded and derived from Indigenous peoples - those with the longest known history on a given landscape. In Alaska, Indigenous peoples were required to form an intimite knowledge of local landscapes, including the species that inhabit them and the environmental conditions that impact them, in order to survive harsh climactic conditions. For more on IK, CLICK HERE to read my comprehensive exam essay on local and indigenous knowledge in wildlife research and managemet.


This Kiks.adi Robe is on loan to the Wrangell Museum and is the property of the clan. The traditional design represents the broad Boreal Toad with its distinctive center stripe on the back and its warty skin.


The Kiks.adi Clan of the Stikine Tlingit bear the frog as their major crest and now reside primarily in the Alaska communities of Wrangell and Petersburg. Given their traditional relationship to amphibian species and their long history of survival in the Stikine Region, I hypothesized that valuable IK may be available. To document this, as well as to explore traditional and contemporary Kiks.adi relationships to ampibian, I have spent several years interviewing elders of the tribe.


Several interesting and preliminary insights resulting from my interviews are reported below. This is just a sample of the information that was obtained. Before formal publication, the clan and the tribe will have an opportunity to review manuscripts for accuracy and to accept or reject anything that they deem confidential.

Over the past several years, a total of six Tlingit elders in Wrangell, Alaska were identified as knowledge bearers and interviewed using a semi-structured technique. Through these ethnographic accounts, I have found that that the Stikine Kiks.adi maintains a close relationship with anurans (frogs and toads), that caudates (newts and salamanders) are largely if not completely absent from their oral histories, and that traditional guidelines for responsible interactions with these species differs substantially from mainstream contemporary western norms, particularly in terms of handling and translocation of wild captured individuals.

While knowledge of local amphibian life histories appears comparable to that of non-Natives, stories, legends and personal accounts involving amphibians reflect an ancient history of interaction with and respect for these species. Contemporary clan elders appear to maintain a spiritual connection with individual anurans encountered on the landscape, often referring to their anthropomorphic qualities, including communication of deceased ancestors through individual specimens and their ability to serve as spirit guides. Considering Kiks.adi artistic expressions and regalia present in Wrangell, Bufo boreas (the Boreal Toad), appears to be the species identified as the clan’s crest and referred to in clan legend. The Kiks.adi people therefore afford great cultural value to amphibians, both historically and contemporarily, and can offer valuable lessons for the research and management of amphibians in the region.


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