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College of Humanities & Sciences

Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples Focus Area


The Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples focus within the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana is unique, and like all parts of the Program, interdisciplinary in approach and activist in focus.

Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Peoples (also called Traditional Ecological Knowledge or Indigenous Knowledge) refers to, "The evolving knowledge acquired by indigenous and local peoples over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with the environment. This knowledge is specific to a location and includes the relationships between plants, animals, natural phenomena, landscapes.... It encompasses the world view of indigenous people which includes ecology, spirituality, human and animal relationships, and more." (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013)

Students will learn different approaches to explore the role of Traditional Environmental Knowledge within the lives of historic and contemporary Native peoples and their communities. As Tribal, State and Federal agencies incorporate TEK within their policies and procedures, it makes it essential for Native and non-Native students to understand TEK's role in helping solve environmental issues.

The culminating project for the Traditional Environmental Knowledge focus can be a thesis, professional paper, or portfolio. Students will coordinate with the Traditional Environmental Knowledge focus advisor to select course work within Environmental Studies and other disciplines.

Faculty contact: Rosalyn LaPier

Courses within Environmental Studies

ENST 303 (NASX 303E) - Ecological Perspectives in Native American Traditions 
Offered Autumn and Spring. An examination of Native American environmental ethics and tribal and historical and contemporary use of physical environmental resources.
ENST 491 Nature and Native Americans 
Offered Autumn and Spring. An examination of environmental knowledge of Native Americans and their relationship with nature to provide a foundation for understanding contemporary environmental issues within Native American communities. The course explores how Native peoples found meaning within nature and how nature helped shape their reality.
ENST 594 Environmental Issues of Native Americans 
Offered Spring. This course will provide a historic overview of federal policies toward Native Americans (in the West) during the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on three topics: land, water, and minerals and the environmental issues engendered from these policies.

Courses within the University

NASX 391 - Ethnobotany of Amerindians
Offered intermittently.

University of Montana

Environmental Studies Program

Phil Condon, Director

Tel: (406) 243-6273 | Fax: (406) 243-6090

Jeannette Rankin Hall 106A

32 Campus Drive | Missoula, MT 59812

evst@mso.umt.edu