Abstract Detail

Paths forward: Engaging Indigenous science and knowledge

Strecker, Lisa [1].

Decolonizing Ethnobotany in the Classroom - A Complex, Yet Highly Rewarding Undertaking.

Ethnobotany is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and plants. The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is fortunate to host one of the nation’s few ethnobotany programs. The UAF Ethnobotany Program (EBOT), which is housed at one of the university’s rural campuses in Western Alaska, the Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel, was founded 15 years ago at the request of Yup’ik Elders who wanted to see their cultural, plant-related knowledge preserved and passed on to future generations. At the same time, the program was designed to serve as a culturally relevant stepping-stone into academia for regional students. This unique background defines the program’s educational and outreach profile. Currently, the program offers an Occupational Endorsement Certificate in Ethnobotany, other undergraduate degrees and early college courses (high school students earning college credit). EBOT also engages in community outreach, documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge and practice, and community-based projects.
Much like many other academic disciplines, ethnobotany looks back at a history that is steeped in colonialism. At the same time, ethnobotany has become a tool of empowerment and cultural revitalization for Indigenous peoples; a means to heal severed relationships to the land and its inhabitants. In order to unlock the full potential of ethnobotany for our students, we are dedicated to decolonizing our institutional structures, dismantling colonial attitudes and approaches in ourselves and mainly, adjusting the way we teach ethnobotany accordingly. The majority of our instruction is distance delivered, yet hands-on and place-based. In all courses, we encourage students to explore their own ethnobotanical heritage and the human-plants relationships of the places they live in. In our field courses, we teach collaboratively with local Elders. Through our main funding source, a USDA NIFA grant, we are able to provide educational equity by offering tuition scholarships to qualifying students.
Decolonizing ethnobotany is a complex, yet highly rewarding process. In my contribution, I will elaborate on how we address decolonization in our virtual classrooms and face-to-face field courses.

1 - University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus, Community Based Science, College of Rural and Community Development, P.O. Box 756500, Fairbanks, AK , 99775-6500, USA

Undergraduate teaching
culturally relevant instruction
experiential learning.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Number: C8002
Abstract ID:1065
Candidate for Awards:None

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