Item: The use of traditional aboriginal knowledge in avalanche forecasting (canada and alaska)
Title: The use of traditional aboriginal knowledge in avalanche forecasting (canada and alaska)
Proceedings: 2002 International Snow Science Workshop, Penticton, British Columbia
Authors: Kirstie E.M Simpson, Yukon Avalanche Rescue Dog Kennels, Whitehorse, Yukon
Abstract: Traditional Knowledge is based on, and acquired through, observation and experience within a local or utilised regional environment, as well as instruction and oral tradition. Traditional Knowledge is cumulative and is a shared experience validated by testing its effectiveness in particular circumstances. In reviewing the stories and lessons provided by Elders from across the Canadian Arctic and Alaska the macro-picture emerges of weather and terrain, and above all, human safety. Traditional routes are very well defined and the same routes are followed generation after generation. On the Easter weekend of 1898, at the height of the Klondike Goldrush, an avalanche swept down the Alaskan side of the Chilkoot Goldrush Trail, killing 69 "stampeders". Aboriginal packers accustomed to the ways of the traditional routes warned against going past the treeline that day and the days preceding. Scientific Knowledge tells us that the conditions described should have been a warning that went unheeded. Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge also describes why this was a warning. The only difference was that the Traditional Knowledge did not go unheeded and of the hundreds of Aboriginal Packers who were on the trail that day, none were in the pass and none were killed. A question arises as to whether the stampeders heard and understood the warnings, given the language barriers and the fact that the mountains were a foreign environment to many of them, or whether haste and greed prevailed.
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Keywords: traditional knowledge, aboriginal, elders, avalanche, chilkoot pass
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