[lg policy] Terralingua E-news Issue # 16

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 13 15:18:25 UTC 2012

 Forwarded From: Terralingua <info at terralingua.org>
Date: Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Terralingua E-news Issue # 16

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become an active part of the effort to protect the world's
linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity.

         New Website for Terralingua’s Vitality Index of Traditional
Environmental Knowledge (VITEK)

 ...because TEK, our invaluable heritage and our hopeful future.

 *“Traditional knowledge is rooted in the traditional life of Aboriginal
people. Certain issues are firmly grounded in traditional knowledge, such
as harvesting, use of lands and resources for traditional purposes,
cultural well-being, heritage resources, and others. Although the basis for
traditional and local knowledge and science-based knowledge can differ,
they may on their own or together, contribute to the understanding of these

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) is a fundamental expression of
the biocultural links between people and nature, and is a key to human
survival and adaptation. But there is growing concern that rapid
socio-economic change is undermining the intergenerational transmission of
TEK in many parts of the world. TEK loss threatens the security,
well-being, and identity of indigenous peoples and local communities. It
also threatens the conservation of biodiversity, as recognized in the
policies and programs of international bodies such as the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Union for the Conservation
of Nature (IUCN).

However, while there is an abundance of qualitative observations and a few
quantitative studies on the persistence and loss of TEK, what has been
missing is a consistent, replicable methodology for measuring trends in TEK
in many different locales and at different scales, and therefore for
assessing the global status and trends of TEK. Terralingua’s Vitality Index
of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (VITEK) is just such a tool.

Learn more by visiting our brand new VITEK site at:


VITEK Making Strides in International Policy Arena

At a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in November 2011 (CBD
SBSTTA 15, Montreal, 7-11 November 2011), the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially proposed Terralingua’s VITEK as an
indicator worthy of consideration for use in assessing progress toward the
attainment of one of the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 [link to
the Aichi Targets]. Target 18 states:

*By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of
indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and
sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological
resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant
international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the
implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation
of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.*

The VITEK comes in as a unique tool for directly measuring the persistence
and loss of traditional knowledge, and therefore as a means by which CBD
member countries could effectively gauge their success in respecting and
integrating traditional knowledge in their conservation and sustainable
development policies.

Terralingua is at work to promote the adoption of the VITEK in this and
other international contexts. One of the next steps is our participation in
IUCN’s 5th World Conservation Congress, to be held in Jeju, Korea,
September 2012. With IUCN’s sponsorship, we will present the day-long
Conservation Campus  “ How to Measure the Loss and Retention of Traditional
Knowledge? The Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental
this event, policy makers, researchers, practitioners, and community
members will be able to familiarize themselves with the VITEK concept and
methodology and its relevance for policy and on-the-ground work. They will
also have an opportunity to work with VITEK developer Dr. Stanford Zent to
acquire hands-on practice with the use of this valuable tool.

 Learn more by visiting our brand new VITEK site at:


 *image credit: Cristina Mittermeier, 2008*

        Launch of Pilot Project on Terralingua’s Biocultural Diversity
Education Curriculum

During the Spring 2012 school semester, Terralingua is working with two
prominent high schools in the U.S.A., Marlborough School in Los Angeles,
California, and St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, to
pilot-test the initial version of the curriculum module on biocultural
diversity that we are developing under our Biocultural Diversity Education
Initiative http://www.terralingua.org/bcdeducation<http://e2ma.net/go/11011535217/208875617/232763977/1405789/goto:http://www.terralingua.org/bcdeducation>

The project has received the generous support of the Philip and Muriel
Berman Foundation, and has been spearheaded by the amazing Terralingua
collaborator Jennifer Hegarty, with the expert advice of Dr. Carla
Paciotto, Professor of Education at Western Illinois University. Teachers
Catherine Atwell (Marlborough) and Laura Warren (St. Mark’s) have agreed to
use our pilot lessons in their classrooms, and their feedback will be
invaluable for the future development of the curriculum. We are deeply
grateful to all those who have made this project possible.

In the next phases, we plan to develop a full-fledged curriculum on
biocultural diversity, complete with interactive materials, and to
disseminate it widely in public schools in North America and beyond.

       [image: Fish Lake]

Voices of the Earth Project Update

We are continuing our collaborations with the Saanich and Tsilhqot’in First
Nations of British Columbia, Canada in the context of our Voices of the
Earth project http://www.terralingua.org/voicesoftheearth<http://e2ma.net/go/11011535217/208875617/232763978/1405789/goto:http://www.terralingua.org/voicesoftheearth>,
which has had the generous support of the Firebird Foundation for
Anthropological Research. In this project, we directly support Indigenous
Peoples’ efforts to record and revitalize their place-based oral
traditions, which are at risk of disappearing as the number of fluent
speakers of many indigenous languages rapidly diminishes.

With Terralingua support, the Language Apprentices at the Saanich Tribal
School recorded and transcribed two of their traditional stories, and are
publishing them in the form of two storybooks illustrated with their own
original art. These two books will join a storybook series that is being
produced for use in the Saanich independent school system. The school runs
a very active language revitalization program, which just recently has been
enriched by the launch of a “language nest” program for kindergarten-age

Tsilhqot’in linguist Linda Smith and other community members have been hard
at work recording many hours of oral histories from the elders in the area
known as Nabas, surrounding two lakes (Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake) that
are threatened by a gold-copper mining development. The area is part of the
Tsilhqot’in ancestral territory and has been very significant to them in
terms of both subsistence and cultural and spiritual values. The recorded
materials will be useful both for language and culture revitalization
projects, and as a contribution to the Tsilhqot’in’s fight for the defense
of their land rights.

We will keep you posted about the outcomes of these collaborations.
nd there’s a new addition to the Voices of the Earth! We have just
established a partnership with the Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) Initiative
conducted by IUCN’s Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of
Protected Areas [links]. The goal of this partnership is to highlight the
organic link between the conservation of SNS in indigenous and local
communities and the maintenance and revitalization of the oral traditions
that convey values, knowledge, and practices relevant to SNS. In the
initial stages of this collaboration, Terralingua is contributing to the
production of a participatory community video that will focus on oral
traditions relevant to the sacred groves of Zanzibar (East Africa). More on
this exciting project soon!

         Terralingua Director Luisa Maffi Interviewed by *The European*Magazine

In a recent interview with the German magazine *The European*, titled
“Cultures Are No Museum Specimens”
Luisa Maffi addressed Managing Editor Martin Eiermann provocative questions
about the value of diversity, ecological resilience and an
environmentalist's commitment to humanism.

The European: Most of our lives will be completely undisturbed by the loss
of languages or cultural heritage elsewhere. What are the global

Maffi: As humans, we have evolved to differentiate ourselves culturally and
linguistically from each other. The role of cultural diversification is
similar to the evolution of complex ecosystems in nature: It gives
resilience to human society as a whole, just as biodiversity gives
resilience to ecosystems. Today, we are converging more and more as diverse
cultures assimilate into the dominant model of Western society. As a
consequence, the pool of perspectives on human life is being drained. In
the past, new solutions to societal and environmental problems could come
from non-Western cultures, but that opportunity is diminishing. In the
words of the linguist Peter Mühlhäusler, we are developing cultural blind
spots. That reality is staring us in the face but we are caught in denial.
Read more…


         Luisa Maffi Participates in Panel Discussion on Biocultural
Diversity, Language, and Environmental Endangerment


On March 29, 2012, the panel “Biocultural Diversity, Language, and
Environmental Endangerment” was held at the University of Minnesota, as a
part of the University Symposium on Abundance & Scarcity. Panelists were
the Native American activist, environmentalist, and writer Winona LaDuke,
Swarthmore University professor and author K. David Harrison, and
Terralingua director Luisa Maffi, who joined via Skype. The panel was
chaired by Mary Hermes, Ojibwe, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at
the University of Minnesota.

The goal of the panel was to raise awareness of the links between language
endangerment, loss of traditional knowledge, and environmental
conservation. In the words of participants, the panel was “dynamite”, and
each presenter should have had an event of their own!

Watch the Video, Listen to the Audio, Read More at the following link:

   Terralingua Granted Charity Status in Canada

We are delighted to announce that our application for charity status in
Canada has been approved! This means that we are now able to issue receipts
for charitable donations from Canadian sources. This will be of special
interest to our Canadian members. Please keep your donations coming, as
from now on they will be tax-deductible for you! To donate to Terralingua,
please go to

For our U.S.A.-based members and supporters, our registration as a
(501)(c)(3) non-profit organization in the U.S.A. remains fully in place,
so we will continue to issue tax receipts for your donations. Please go to
support our work!

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