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Indigenous knowledge should inform COVID-19 recovery strategy, say Yukoners in top science journal

A team of Yukoners have published a letter in the prestigious academic journal Science, arguing that Indigenous principles and knowledge should inform a global strategy for recovering from the pandemic.

“This is a big breakthrough, I would say, for the two world views and two knowledge systems to begin to acknowledge each other,” said Joe Copper Jack, a Ta’an Kwach’an Council elder and lead author on the letter. 

The letter addresses the widely-recognized “One Health” approach in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which links human health with the health of animals and the environment. 

But, the authors write, scientists and policy-makers often overlook the fact that Indigenous people have had this interconnected approach for thousands of years.

In order for the One Health strategy to be effective, they argue, Indigenous principles and input should inform how it is is taught and applied around the world.

Yukon Morning10:45Traditional knowledge in scientific journal

Four Yukoners have written a letter that has been published in a prestigious scientific journal. Two of the authors Joe Copper Jack and Jared Gonet spoke with guest host Elyn Jones. 10:45

Copper Jack says having the letter published in such a journal shows that western science is open to Indigenous knowledge and ways of thinking. 

“Human health, animal health and land health are tied together and should be respected,” said Copper Jack.

The letter was published in the Sept. 25 edition of the peer-reviewed journal. It was co-authored by Jared Gonet, Anne Mease and Katarzyna Nowak.

Gonet said he is working on these ideas as a PhD student.

“What the letter is getting at is that traditional knowledge really needs to underlie any One Health initiatives going forward,” said Gonet, a member of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and a PhD student at the University of Alberta and Yukon University.

“Conservation in general really needs to start bringing in traditional knowledge and some of the principles,” he said.

“Especially in the Yukon, we really need to start developing One Health principles here, and as we do, traditional knowledge should definitely inform that.”

The letter concludes with a vision for the post-pandemic future:

“As we mobilize knowledge for recovery and reimagine the ways in which we live and consume in the wake of COVID-19— and amid the ongoing climate and biodiversity emergencies — partnering with holders of traditional knowledge can help drive systemic change by transforming our relationships with the Earth and with each other.”

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