Comparing Indigenous Knowledge & Western Science

Indigenous knowledge and Western science represent two different ways of looking at the world around us. Western science tries to understand the natural world by studying individual parts. In contrast, Indigenous knowledge seeks to understand the world in a more holistic way by observing the connections between all of the parts. Because of these differences, Indigenous knowledge has the potential to compliment the system of Western science (The Living Knowledge Project, 2008).


A Comparison Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge Styles:

Comparison 2

(Alaska Native Science Commission)

  • Secular: things that are not religious, spiritual or sacred.
  • Didactic: to teach or lecture others
  • Reductionist: tries to understand a complex system based on the simpler parts


A Comparison Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge Uses:

Comparison 3

(Alaska Native Science Commission)


It is important to be aware of the unique characteristics of Indigenous knowledge and Western science, but it is also beneficial to recognize the similarities between these two ways of obtaining knowledge.  The similarities make it easier to see how the knowledge from both systems can be combined to create a better understanding of the natural world (Tsuji & Ho, 2002).

Baker, Rayner & Wolowic, 2011


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