The Georgetown environmental department is working with the environmental committee with funding from the EPA to complete a project that aims to document Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as it relates to the Native Village of Georgetown.  As we work toward the completion of this project, we will be documenting our goals and progress through a series of blog articles.  This is the first article in that series, and we will focus mainly on exploring the question – what is TEK?

Let’s start with an “official” definition, laid out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization in 1994:

The indigenous people of the world possess an immense knowledge of their environments, based on centuries of living close to nature.   Living in and from the richness and variety of complex ecosystems, they have an understanding of the properties of plants and animals, the functioning of ecosystems and the techniques for using and managing them that is particular and often detailed…people’s knowledge and perceptions of the environment, and their relationships with it, are often important elements of cultural identity.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1994

From that definition, I think it’s important to note the relationship of people’s perspectives and knowledge of the environment and how it relates to their cultural identity.  Georgetown member, Jonathan Samuelson, explores that idea a bit further and brings the idea home:

Sense of place is a critical component to the cultural survival of people of a community. In cases where communities are no longer inhabited a documented history and lifestyle play a vital role in providing knowledge necessary to strengthen one’s sense of place.

Jonathan Samuelson, 2016

As we move forward with this project, we have a few goals in mind:

  1. To preserve information related to the Native Village of Georgetown including topics including but not limited to hunting grounds, harvesting areas, seasonal moves, language, medicinal uses for items found in nature, rituals & diets;
  2. To record how things have changed in the environment surrounding Georgetown; and
  3. To establish and offer a sense of place for Georgetown members.

The photo above is one that we found in the Alaska Regional Profiles: Southwest Region book.  It offers just a glimpse into what life was like in Georgetown in 1910, just over a hundred years ago.  Our hope is that through this project, we connect the people who have experienced the land and natural resources of Georgetown, document the knowledge they have and be able to offer so much more than just a glimpse.

Stay tuned for more information, and please contact Kate Schaberg at or 907-274-2195 if you know of someone who is interested in contributing to the success of this project.