Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Environmental Philosophy

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Soazig LeBihan

Commitee Members

Christopher Preston, Kyle Whyte, Kate Shanley


TEK, sustainable forestry, conservation, collaborative conservation, traditional ecological knowledge


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Applied Ethics | Other Philosophy | Philosophy of Science


This thesis seeks to explore the similarities and differences between traditional ecological knowledge and Western science as a way to address long-held misconceptions about the efficacy of traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK. The motivation for this project arose from a deep desire to investigate the historical injustices toward Indigenous peoples in the name of conservation. The goal of this analysis is to illustrate that effective collaboration between Indigenous knowledge holders and Western scientists is not only possible, but desirable. I outline three major barriers from which I draw out three minimum criteria which much be met if collaborative conservation efforts are to be successful. These barriers are the misguided perspective of Western superiority over other systems of knowledge, the cultural and spiritual aspects of TEK, and the potential for exploitation and appropriation. The respective criteria are as follows: (1) there is a need to first give up the idea of the positional superiority of the West, (2) there must be acknowledgment and acceptance of the cultural underpinnings of TEK, and (3) there must be continuous engagement with traditional knowledge holders throughout any collaborative practice. My analysis illustrates that there is adequate cause to be hopeful that just and effective collaborative conservation practices are possible. I conclude by claiming that collaborative conservation has the potential to address a variety of ecological issues in a way that maximizes both justice and effectiveness.



© Copyright 2020 Anne M. Belldina