Ethnogeology, to Inform Place-Based and Culturally Inclusive Geoscience Teaching
Steven Semken, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Carolina Londoño, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Angel Garcia, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Elizabeth Brandt, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
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Ethnogeology is the scientific study of human relationships with (including systems of knowledge related to) the Earth system, typically conducted in the context of a specific community or culture, such as an Indigenous nation. Ethnogeological research synthesizes field- and laboratory-based and bibliographic methods from both geoscience (e.g., mapping, stratigraphy, materials analyses, environmental chemistry) and ethnography (e.g., participant observations, interviews, participatory mapping). It is important that such research be conducted ethically, with meticulous regard for cultural integrity and intellectual property rights of indigenous or historically resident people. This is best accomplished through participatory means, whereby local experts and community members become co-researchers rather than subjects of study. The findings of ethnogeologic research in indigenous communities are typically and variously referred to as Native science, traditional knowledge, or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Such knowledge is often more in-depth than mainstream science because of its place-based nature. In consultation with appropriate cultural experts, ethnogeological findings can and have already been used to inform place-based and culturally inclusive geoscience curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, in concert with "western" or Euro-American scientific knowledge. Neither domain of knowledge is intended to epistemologically validate the other; instead, both are thoughtfully synthesized to enhance relevance and interest for culturally diverse students who are often underrepresented in geoscience. We illustrate these operating principles with specific examples (knowledge and pedagogical applications) from our ongoing ethnogeologic studies in the Southwestern United States, the Colombian Amazon, the Caribbean Basin, and elsewhere in Latin America.