Traditional Knowledge Underlies One Health Approach

“This is a big breakthrough, I would say, for the two world views and two knowledge systems to begin to acknowledge each other,” said Joe Copper Jack, a Ta’an Kwach’an Council elder and lead author on the letter. 

CBC Interview
In September of 2020, Joe Copper Jack, Traditional Knowledge Holder from Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory co-wrote a letter published in the Journal Science with a suggestion: blend Traditional Knowledge with Western Science to transform how we teach human health and its intimate connection with the health of the natural world. (SCIENCE, 25 Sepember 2020.Vol 369, Issue 6511). A condensed version of his letter follows:

The degradation of natural environments is a major driver of disease spread from animals to humans. The One Health strategy, which links human, animal, and environmental health, has been central to discussions about recovering from the pandemic and preventing its spread.

It is also central to Traditional Knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples honed over thousands of years, and is not only a knowledge system, but a process by which resilience to past environmental change and previous disease outbreaks was achieved.

To maximize the effectiveness of the One Health approach, Indigenous principles and inputs should inform both the way it is taught in emerging One Health academic programs and university courses and its application from the Arctic to the Tropics.

As we mobilize knowledge for recovery and reimagine the ways in which we live and consume in the wake of COVID-19— and amid the ongoing climate and biodiversity emergencies — partnering with holders of traditional knowledge can help drive systemic change by transforming our relationships with the Earth and with each other.