Human Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 15–27 | Cite as

Hunting and Morality as Elements of Traditional Ecological Knowledge



Contemporary subsistence hunting practices of North American Indians have been questioned because of hunters’ use of modern technologies and integration of wage-based and subsistence livelihoods. Tribal traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has been questioned on similar grounds and used as justification for ignoring tribal perspectives on critical natural resource conservation and development issues. This paper examines hunting on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in North Central Wisconsin, USA. The study used semi-structured interviews with hunters from the reservation to document their contemporary hunting practices and the traditional moral code that informs their hunting-related behaviors and judgments. Subsistence hunting is framed in the context of TEK and attention focused on the interplay between TEK’s practical and moral dimensions. Results indicate the importance of traditional moral codes in guiding a community’s contemporary hunting practices and the inseparability and interdependence of epistemological, practical, and ethical dimensions of TEK.


American Indian Environmental values Ethics of hunting Ojibwe Subsistence Traditional ecological knowledge Tribal White-tailed deer 



Financial support for this project was provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. We thank Lac du Flambeau Tribal staff, leaders and members for allowing and helping us conduct the research. Additional thanks are owed to Angela Spickard, Stuart Burgess, Henry Kovacs, Dan Kramer, Mike Walters, George Cornell, Jianguo Liu and Ivette Perfecto for invaluable support, assistance and feedback. Reviews of early drafts by Michael P. Nelson, Arun Agrawal, Brian Seitz and Thomas Princen, along with four anonymous reviewers, greatly improved this manuscript.


  1. Alessa, L., Kliskey, A., and Williams, P. (2010). Forgetting Freshwater: Technology, Values, and Distancing in Remote Arctic Communities. Society & Natural Resources 23: 254–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alessa, L., Kliskey, A., Williams, P., and Barton, M. (2008). Perception of Change in Freshwater in Remote Resource-Dependent Arctic Communities. Global Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions 18: 153–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barber, K. (2005). Death of Celilo Falls. Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington, USA.Google Scholar
  4. Benton-Benai, E. (1988). The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway Hayward. Indian Country Communications, Hayward, Wisconsin, USA.Google Scholar
  5. Berkes, F. (1993). Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Perspective. In Inglis, J. (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases. International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research, Ottawa, Ontario, CA, pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
  6. Berkes, F. (1998). Indigenous Knowledge and Resource Management Systems in the Canadian Subarctic. In Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (eds.), Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 98–128.Google Scholar
  7. Berkes, F. (2008). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Routledge, New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  8. Berkes, F. (ed.) (1989). Common Property Resources: Ecology and Community-Based Sustainable Development. Belhaven Press, London, UK, London.Google Scholar
  9. Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management. Ecological Applications 10: 1251–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berkes, F., Folke, C., and Gadgil, M. (1994). Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Biodiversity, Resilience and Sustainability. In Perrings, C. A., Maler, K.-G., Folke, C., Holling, C. S., and Jansson, B.-O. (eds.), Biodiversity Conservation: Problems and Policies. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp. 281–300.Google Scholar
  11. Berkes, F., Kislalioglu, M., Folke, C., and Gadgil, M. (1998). Exploring the Basic Ecological Unit: Ecosystem-Like Concepts in Traditional Societies. Ecosystems 1: 409–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brightman, R. A. (1993). Grateful Prey:Rock Cree Animal-Human Relationships. University of California Press, Berkeley, California, USA.Google Scholar
  13. Brody, H. (1981). Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver, British Columbia, CA.Google Scholar
  14. Borgmann, A. (1984). Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  15. Callicott, B. (1989). American Indian Land Wisdom. Journal of Forest History 33(1): 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Case, D. (1989). Subsistence and Self-Determination: Can Alaska Natives Have a More "Effective" Voice? University of Colorado Law Review 60: 1009–1035.Google Scholar
  17. Chapin, F. S., Trainor, S. F., Huntington, O., Lovecraft, A. L., Zavaleta, E., Natcher, D. C., McGuire, A. D., Nelson, J. L., Ray, L., Calef, M., Fresco, N., Huntington, H., Rupp, T. S., Dewilde, L., and Naylor, R. L. (2008). Increasing Wildfire in Alaska's Boreal Forest: Pathways to Potential Solutions of a Wicked Problem. Bioscience 58: 531–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Condon, R. G., Collings, P., and Wenzel, G. (1995). The Best Part of Life: Subsistence Hunting, Ethnicity and Economic Adaptation among Young Adult Inuit Males. Arctic 48: 31–46.Google Scholar
  19. Cordova, V. F. 2007. How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V.F. Cordova, edited by K. D. Moore, K. Peters, T. Jojola and A. Lacy. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, USA.Google Scholar
  20. Cornell, G. L. 1992. Environmental Philosophy and Perceptions of the Environment. Paper read at Human Values and the Environment, October 1–3, at Madison, Wisconsin, USA.Google Scholar
  21. Deloria, V. (1969). Custer Died for Your Sins. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.Google Scholar
  22. Donner, W. 1997. Animal Rights and Native Hunting. In Canadian Issues in Environmental Ethics, edited by A. Wellington, A. J. Greenbaum and W. Cragg. Broadview Press, Orchard Park, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  23. Dudas, J. R. (2005). In the Name of Equal Rights: "Special" Rights and the Politics of Resentment in Post-Civil Rights America. Law Society Review 39: 723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fienup-Riordan, A. (2000). Hunting Tradition in a Changing World: Yup'ik Lives in Alaska Today. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.Google Scholar
  25. Ford, J. D., Smit, B., and Wandel, J. (2006). Vulnerability to Climate Change in the Arctic: A Case Study from Arctic Bay, Canada. Global Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions 16: 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Freedman, E. (2002). When Indigenous Rights and Wilderness Collide: Prosecution of Native Americans for Using Motors in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. American Indian Quarterly 26: 378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gaard, G. (2001). Tools for a Cross-Cultural Feminist Ethics: Exploring Ethical Contexts and Contents in the Makah Whale Hunt. Hypatia 16: 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gadgil, M., Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (1993). Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation. Ambio 22: 151–156.Google Scholar
  29. Guilmet, G. M., and Whited, D. L. (2002). American Indian and Non-Indian Philosophies of Technology and Their Differential Impact on the Environment of the Southern Puget Sound. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 26: 33–66.Google Scholar
  30. Hobsbawm, E. (1992). Introduction: Inventing Tradition. In The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  31. Johnston, B. (1976). Ojibway Heritage. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Kemmerer, L. (2004). Killing Traditions: Consistency in Applied Moral Philosophy. Ethics, Place and Environment 7: 151–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kofinas, G. P., Chapin, F. S., BurnSilver, S., Schmidt, J. I., Fresco, N. L., Kielland, K., Martin, S., Springsteen, A., and Rupp, T. S. (2010). Resilience of Athabascan Subsistence Systems to Interior Alaska's Changing Climate. Canadian Journal of Forest Research-Revue Canadienne De Recherche Forestiere 40(7): 1347–1359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krech III, S. (1999). The Ecological Indian: Myth and History. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  35. LaDuke, W., and Alexander S. 2004. Food Is Medicine: Recovering Traditional Foods to Heal the People. edited by H. t. E. a. W. E. L. R. Project. Honor the Earth, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.Google Scholar
  36. Livingstone, J. (1989). Roundtable Discussion on Aboriginal Socities and the Animal Protection Movement: Rights, Issues, and Implications. In Keith, R., and Saunders, A. (eds.), A Question of Rights: Northern Wildlife Management and the Anti-Harvest Movement. Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Ottawa, Ontario, CA, pp. 118–122.Google Scholar
  37. McCorquodale, S. M. (1997). Cultural Contexts of Recreational Hunting and Native Subsistence and Ceremonial Hunting: Their Significance for Wildlife Management. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25: 568–573.Google Scholar
  38. Menzies, C. R. (2006). Ecological Knowledge, Subsistence, and Livelihood Practices: The Case of the Pine Mushroom Harvest in Northwestern British Columbia. In Menzies, C. R. (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, pp. 87–106.Google Scholar
  39. Menzies, C. R., and Butler, C. (2006). Understanding Ecological Knowledge. In Menzies, C. R. (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, pp. 1–20.Google Scholar
  40. Mihesuah, D. A. (2009). American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities. Clarity Press, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.Google Scholar
  41. Miles, M. B., and Hubermann, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook 2nd ed. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California, USA.Google Scholar
  42. Nadasdy, P. (1999). The Politics of TEK: Power and the "Integration" of Knowledge. Arctic Anthropology 36: 1–18.Google Scholar
  43. Nakashima, D. (1993). Astute Observers on the Sea Ice Edge: Inuit Knowledge as a Basis for Arctic Co-Management. In Inglis, J. (ed.), Traditional Ecological Knoweldge: Concepts and Cases. International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, CA, pp. 99–110.Google Scholar
  44. Natcher, D. C., Huntington, O., Huntington, H., Chapin, F. S., Trainor, S. F., and DeWilde, L. (2007). Notions of Time and Sentience: Methodological Considerations for Arctic Climate Change Research. Arctic Anthropology 44: 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nesper, L. (2002). The Walleye War: The Struggle for Ojibwe Spearfishing and Treaty Rights. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.Google Scholar
  46. Parlee, B., Manseau, M., and Nation, Lutsel K’e Dene First (2005). Using Traditional Knowledge to Adapt to Ecological Change: Denesoline Monitoring of Caribou Movements. Arctic 58: 26–37.Google Scholar
  47. Pearce, T., Smit, B., Duerden, F., Ford, J. D., Goose, A., and Kataoyak, F. (2010). Inuit Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada. Polar Record 46: 157–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Peloquin, C., and Berkes, F. (2009). Local Knowledge, Subsistence Harvests, and Social-Ecological Complexity in James Bay. Human Ecology 37(5): 533–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. NVivo qualitative data analysis software; QSR International Pty Ltd. Version 8, 2008Google Scholar
  50. Read, J. M., Jose M. V. Fragoso, K. M. Silvius, J. Luzar, H. Overman, A. Cummings, S. T. Giery, and L. Flamarion de Oliveira. 2010. Space, Place, and Hunting Patterns among Indigenous Peoples of the Guyanese Rupununi Region.(Report). Journal of Latin American Geography 9:213–231.Google Scholar
  51. Reo, N. J. (2011). The Importance of Belief Systems in Traditional Ecological Knowledge Initiatives. The International Indigenous Policy Journal 2(4).Google Scholar
  52. Riemer, J. W. (2004). Chippewa Spearfishing, Lake Property Owner/Anglers, and Tourism - a Case Study of Environmental Social Conflict. Sociological Spectrum 24(1): 43–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shils, E. (1981). Tradition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  54. Smith, P. C. (2009). Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.Google Scholar
  55. Smith, T. (1988). Is Furwearing an Act of Philanthropy? Alternatives 15: 67–68.Google Scholar
  56. Tanner, A. (1979). Bringing Home Animals: Indigenous Ideologies and Mode of Production of the Mistassini Cree Hunters. St. Marin's Press, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  57. Taylor, A. (2003). Animals and Ethics: An Overview of the Philosophical Debate. Broadview Press, Peterborough, Ontario, CA.Google Scholar
  58. Trosper, R. L. (2002). Northwest Coast Indigenous Institutions That Supported Resilience and Sustainability. Ecological Economics 41: 329–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. van Ginkel, R. (2004). The Makah Whale Hunt and Leviathan's Death: Reinventing Tradition and Disputing Authenticity in the Age of Modernity. ETNOFOOR XVII 1(2): 58–89.Google Scholar
  60. Wenzel, G. (1991). Animal Rights, Human Rights: Ecology, Economy, and Ideology in the Canadian Arctic. Belhaven Press, London, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations