UMass Amherst Launches Center to Integrate Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science

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UMass Amherst is launching a new interdisciplinary center that will combine Indigenous knowledge with Western science.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) is partnering with Indigenous communities across the U.S. and internationally to launch a new Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS).

Led by Sonya Atalay, PhD, provost professor of anthropology at UMass Amherst, CBIKS will bring together Indigenous and Western scientists to understand and address the interconnected impacts of environmental change on food, culture, and society.

The center will partner with 57 Indigenous communities across eight international hubs to conduct research and develop climate change solutions. It will also expand its network of 40 organizations, which includes universities, tribal colleges, NGOs, museums, and industry partners, to further collaborate with Indigenous communities and establish regional hubs.

CBIKS is staffed by a team of over 50 scientists, with many coming from a range of Indigenous backgrounds, including Native American, First Nations/Métis, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Māori, and Aboriginal Australian. Their collaborative efforts will bridge cultural gaps, involving Indigenous community members alongside scientific researchers.

In its first year, the Pacific Northwest hub will launch a project on traditional clam farming practiced by Native communities along the Pacific coast of Canada and the U.S., according to the scientific journal Nature.

The center is the first Indigenous knowledge research hub to secure funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It will receive $30 million from the NSF over a five-year period, with prospects for further funding in the future.

“Our vision is that braided Indigenous and Western methodologies become mainstream in scientific research – that they are ethically utilized by scientists working in equitable partnership with Indigenous and other communities to address complex scientific problems and provide place-based, community-centered solutions that address the existential threat of climate change and its urgent impacts on cultural places and food systems,” said Atalay in a statement.