According to Martha Johnson of the Dene Cultural Institute in Canada, Traditional Ecological Knowledge can be defined as: “a body of knowledge built by a group of people through generations living in close contact with nature. It includes a system of classification, a set of empirical observations about the local environment, and a system of self-management that governs resource use.”
Following this definition, it would be incorrect to assume that the word ‘traditional’ necessarily implies ‘outdated’. Indeed, the term ‘traditional innovation’ should not be regarded as an oxymoron since, as noted by the Canadian indigenous peoples organisation, the Four Directions Council:
“what is ‘traditional’ about traditional knowledge is not its antiquity, but the way it is acquired and used. In other words, the social process of learning and sharing knowledge, which is unique to each indigenous culture, lies at the very heart of its ‘traditionality’. Much of this knowledge is actually quite new, but it has a social meaning, and legal character, entirely unlike the knowledge indigenous people acquire from settlers and industrialised societies.”
– From The Public and Private Domains: Intellectual Property Rights in Traditional Ecological Knowledge by Graham Dutfield, 1999.