Importance of centering traditional knowledge and Indigenous culture in geoscience education

Wendy F. Todd, Chessaly E. Towne, Judi Brown Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Traditional Knowledge (TK) is a qualitative and quantitative living body of knowledge developed locally and regionally across generations over thousands of years. This study aims to show through authentic voice the importance of centering TK systems and cultural needs to provide equitable geoscience education programs. TK can be communicated through a variety of methods, such as story and song, dance, paintings, carvings, structures, and textiles. TK is interdisciplinary within anthropological and ecological subsistence and provide enhanced cultural and spiritual context. Research findings are enhanced by the exploratory and inquiry-based design of TK and provide insight into the anthropogenic impacts on the environment allowing researchers to gain a rich understanding of human behaviors and patterns when collecting and analyzing data. This study examines factors influencing Indigenous students’ participation and retention in the geosciences, specifically gauging opinions on the incorporation of TK systems into geoscience education. Data was collected using an electronic survey to identify factors that inform students’ decision to enter geoscience disciplines and better understand the importance of role models and mentors for retention. Our findings indicate that Indigenous students were interested in using both TK and Western science in geoscience learning spaces, Indigenous role models played an important role in sense of belonging and identity in the geosciences, and the incorporation of culture into learning experiences played an important role in retention. Findings from this study, if operationalized, would allow geoscience departments to increase retention of Indigenous students and faculty, provide equitable educational opportunities, and to better understand how to effect cultural change in the geosciences by providing a welcoming and affirming space for Indigenous scholars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-414
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), through grant DEB-1311616, the NSF GRFP, GEO-1034611, ICER-2022931. The authors would like to thank project participants for trusting the research team by engaging in survey responses and focus group discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • culture role models
  • equitable education
  • geoscience
  • indigenous-education
  • Traditional knowledge


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