The Ecological Citizen

A free-to-access publication confronting human supremacy in defence of the Earth


Long article

What can we learn from indigenous ecological knowledge?

Ngozi Unuigbe

The Ecological Citizen Vol 6 No 2 2023: 135–9 [epub-089]

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First published: 17 March 2023  |  Permanent URL  |  Download citation in RIS format


For centuries – even millennia – indigenous peoples have lived sustainably on their ancestral lands. This is made possible by their ecocentric worldview which emphasizes that human beings are part of Nature, rather than separate from it. Indigenous ecological knowledge has been gathered by indigenous communities through intimate observations of local ecosystems over many years of living in harmony with their environment. It is not just a body of beliefs, but a way of life – a set of ethical practices governing indigenous peoples' relationships with Nature. Despite its ecological sophistication and ethical richness, indigenous ecological knowledge has often been treated as 'primitive' and as superseded by Western science. In this paper, I argue that – on the contrary – indigenous ecological knowledge deserves to be taken seriously by mainstream approaches to ecology and ecological policy making, for it has much to teach us about how to address the environmental crises we face, and how to relate sustainably and non-exploitatively to Nature.



Anthropocentrism, Harmony with Nature, Indigenous culture