Indigenous Knowledge and Sea Ice Science: What Can We Learn from Indigenous Ice Users?

  • Hajo EickenEmail author


Drawing on examples mostly from Inupiaq and Yupik sea ice expertise in coastal Alaska, this contribution examines how local and indigenous knowledge (LIK) can inform and guide geophysical and biological sea ice research. Part of the relevance of LIK derives from its linkage to sea ice use and the services coastal communities derive from the ice cover. As a result, indigenous experts keep track of a broad range of sea ice variables at a particular location. These observations are embedded into a broader worldview that speaks to both long-term variability or change and the system of values associated with ice use. The contribution examines eight different contexts in which transmission of LIK is particularly relevant. These include the role of LIK in study site selection and assessment of a sampling campaign in the context of inter-annual variability, the identification of rare or inconspicuous phenomena or events, the contribution by indigenous experts to hazard assessment and emergency response, the record of past and present climate embedded in LIK, and the value of holistic sea ice knowledge in detecting subtle, intertwined patterns of environmental change. The relevance of local, indigenous sea ice expertise in helping advance adaptation and responses to climate change as well as its potential role in guiding research questions and hypotheses are also examined. The challenges that may have to be overcome in creating an interface for exchange between indigenous experts and sea ice researchers are considered. Promising approaches to overcome these challenges include cross-cultural, interdisciplinary education, and the fostering of Communities of Practice.


Sea ice geophysics Sea ice use Local indigenous knowledge Sea ice system services Arctic observing network 



This chapter draws from numerous conversations, instructions, and support by a range of Inupiaq and Yupik sea ice experts. I am particularly grateful to Winton Weyapuk, Jr., Joe Leavitt, Leonard Apangalook, Sr., the late Kenneth Toovak, the late Arnold Brower, Sr., and Richard Glenn for sharing their insights and providing guidance: Quyanaqpak and Quyanaghhalek! This contribution would not have been possible without the encouragement by Igor Krupnik, who introduced me to the finer details of working with indigenous experts: Thank you! Claudio Aporta, Igor Krupnik, and Matthew Druckenmiller provided helpful comments on the manuscript. The work reported on in this contribution has been supported by the University of Alaska and the National Science Foundation (grants OPP-0632398 and 0805703). The views reflected in this contribution are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the aforementioned people and organizations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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