Frequently Asked Questions about the TKs Guidelines 

How did the CTKW form?
The Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW) was formed from the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science (ACCCNRS) – a federal advisory committee. The ACCCNRS was formed in May 2013 when Secretary Jewell nominated a 25-person committee. Two of the members represented tribal/indigenous groups and formed a subcommittee entitled the “Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Matters”. The subcommittee then formed the CTKW to assist with the drafting of the TKs Guidelines (Guidelines) document. The Guidelines will be a part of set of recommendations delivered to the DOI Secretary Jewell in December 2014. The Guidelines will assist in understanding the principals of partnership development between the tribes/indigenous groups and the DOI’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), Climate Science Centers (CSC) and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC). In September 2014, the Guidelines were also released to the public for comment. The Guidelines are intended to lay a foundation in order for all partners to have a better understanding of the principals of partnership development. The Guidelines are not encouraging or discouraging the development of partnerships.


Who leads the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW)?
CTKW is composed of Indigenous persons, staff of indigenous governments and organizations, and experts with experience working with issues concerning traditional knowledges. There is no “executive” or other leadership committee that organizes CTKW working meetings or that guides CTKW decisions. CTKW participants are motivated to work together out of a shared concern for the urgency of the ethical issues Indigenous peoples are facing in their relationships to other parties in climate change initiatives. CTKW works synergistically based on participants’ commitment to respect one another’s values and experiences.

Who funds CTKW?
Most of the CTKW participants work as part of in-kind contributions of the Indigenous governments and organizations where they are currently employed. Some participants volunteer primarily out of their own personal time. Other participants on the CTKW have been funded by individual Indigenous governments, the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Northwest Climate Science Center. As CTKW is not a 501c3 or have any other official legal identity, funding flows through the particular Indigenous governments and organizations whose participants serve on CTKW.

Why does CTKW believe this Guidelines document is needed?
The CTKW participants witness a growing interest within Tribal Governments, U.S. Federal Agencies, U.S. Organizations, and more broadly in the importance of Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledges for understanding, adapting to and mitigating climate change impacts. Knowledge sharing is an ethical issue in this context because sharing can often present risks to Indigenous peoples. It is also an ethical issue because non-Indigenous parties may encourage or pressure Indigenous peoples to share their traditional knowledges without mutually beneficial outcomes.

Do the Guidelines seek to define what traditional knowledges are?
No. The Guidelines assert that it is the particular Indigenous peoples’ decision – according to their own values and standards – to determine what English-language terms such as “traditional knowledges” or “traditional ecological knowledge” are supposed to mean. Traditional knowledges are valuable, significant, and valid in their own right.  It is not appropriate to suggest that TKs must be validated by the methods of “western” science to be considered legitimate. It is a fundamental premise of the Guidelines that indigenous peoples’ own internal methods of defining, valuing and validating their own knowledges/knowledge systems must be respected.

Do the Guidelines intend to supersede consultation policies?
No. The Guidelines are not in any way intended to supersede the obligation of federal agencies to consult Tribes and traditional knowledge holders with whom they are collaborating. The Guidelines are also not intended to supersede other policies and laws requiring consultation of Indigenous peoples.

Does CTKW seek to persuade indigenous peoples that they should always share their traditional knowledges with other parties?
No. The CTKW believes that it is the particular Indigenous peoples’ decision whether they should share. This commitment is reflected throughout the Guidelines. Not sharing and self-management are explicitly considered and valid options. The Guidelines are being developed in a context in which traditional knowledges are being shared with little guidance. They seek to raise awareness of Indigenous people’s right not to share and the idea that Indigenous peoples’ own protocols for sharing must be respected by outside parties. The Guidelines seek to raise awareness of potential risks to Indigenous peoples and potential options for best practices in cases where a particular Tribe has decided to share.

How should this website be used?
The website was designed to facilitate the use of the Guidelines in the document’s role as informing actual or potential involvements of traditional knowledges in climate change initiatives. The website also offers the opportunity for people to offer constructive inputs to the Guidelines. It is important that comments be constructive as there may be future drafts of the Guidelines that take these comments into consideration.

Do these Guidelines represent the official positions of tribes, intertribal organizations and/or the Federal government?
No. The origins of the Guidelines are explained in detail in the full document as well as in the first frequently asked question. The Guidelines only reflect the experiences of the authors and do not claim to be official Tribal and Indigenous peoples’, state or federal positions. The authors and the text of the Guidelines fully support the sovereignty of Tribal governments to set their own guidelines, policies and laws related to traditional knowledges. The authors also welcome the formal development and endorsement of Guidelines by Tribes and Indigenous peoples, either individually or collectively.

How can I join the CTKW?
CTKW is currently accepting comments on draft 1.0 of the Guidelines. CTKW does not have formal membership criteria. To be on the CTKW email list for updates, please submit your name, organization and email address below.