29. April 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Science · Tags: ,

Consilience has an interview with Dr. Igor Krupnick, who curates the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian. A fascinating bit on oral tradition and generational knowledge transfer in the context of climate change:

Icescape is a concept that I introduced to talk about sea ice in the context of indigenous people. Icescape, very much like landscape. Icescape includes not only the material and physical elements of sea ice; it also includes the intellectual, spiritual, and historical. A hunter [must] come back and tell his peers, his elders, his children where he has been, what he has seen, how was the ice. It has to be given in specific words that everybody understands, telling his story in full. How did you walk, what kind of ice did you see, how you passed this and that, and if you are a spiritual person, you may talk about your thoughts, your dreams, about the stories that you heard, about experiences, other people you recalled at that place or another place. The journey to the ice may be a long and beautiful narrative whether you kill your seal or not. If a hunter doesn’t have his words, his placement, he cannot explain where he has been in that mass of ice. He is not a messenger anymore.

In a camp of 50 people, morning started at five a.m. when kids were sent outdoors to check the weather. I have heard this story from men and women. Boys, age five, trembling in pants and frozen and the father would say, just go out and tell me – which way is the wind blowing, where are the stars? It was training. That’s how they used to start for a boy of five. Go out almost naked and check the weather. Kicked out at age five, they would have to go around the house three times and look – what is up north, where is the wind from – there was an element of harshness, deliberate harshness so that kids became trained. That’s how the vocabulary starts coming, that’s where you get the fine-tuning and calibration for what you look for. So a lot of traditional pedagogy was there. It’s not like that any more.

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