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Biocultural stewardship, Indigenous and local ecological knowledge, and the urban crucible

Formally Refereed
Authors: Heather L. McMillen, Lindsay K. Campbell, Erika S. Svendsen, Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, Kainana S. Francisco, Christian P. Giardina
Year: 2020
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Ecology and Society


Although biocultural stewardship models have been written about widely, especially in Indigenous and rural communities, the practice of applying them in multicultural, urban environments has rarely been explored. We have yet to realize the full potential of kinship-linked, place-based stewardship models in highly diverse and densely populated urban settings. Here we explore how the concept of biocultural stewardship can be applied to a cosmopolitan, urban setting. To do this, we draw upon our experiences as participants and leaders in collaborative projects in New York and Hawaiʻi to consider how diverse knowledge systems and colearning engagements can strengthen a community of practice and enrich our stewardship efforts. Our collaborative projects include stewardship trainings based in a Native Hawaiian perspective (Hālau ʻŌhiʻa) that were adapted for New York City stewardship practitioners (Learning from Place) and subsequently inspired the creation of a New York City-based community of practice (Stewardship Salons). We identify various meanings in diverse practices of stewardship and the ways in which these concepts travel across different geographical contexts and culturally distinct communities. We stress that the meanings and practices resulting from such an integration are important because they shape the conceptualization of resources, their management, and the rights and responsibilities people have for stewardship of their places. We conclude that a biocultural approach to stewardship can help reorient stewardship practices in any context, including urban ones. A shift toward biocultural stewardship can have many positive effects for urban environmental stewardship, but also for much broader applications related to cultivating sustainability and well-being on a planet undergoing rapid environmental, social, and climate change.


biocultural stewardship, civic environmentalism, Hawaiʻi, Indigenous and local ecological knowledge, New York City, urban


McMillen, Heather L.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, Kekuhi; Francisco, Kainana S.; Giardina, Christian P. 2020. Biocultural stewardship, Indigenous and local ecological knowledge, and the urban crucible. Ecology and Society. 25(2): 9.