TEK Advisor

TEK advisors collect and maintain traditional knowledge for use in environmental programs. For example, a TEK advisor working for a community’s government office would interview local Elders over several years to collect data on traditional plants, animals, lands, and waters. If a local variety of salmon started to look strange and contract weird infections, you would search through your interviews for a traditional solution. Then you would make a TEK-based recommendation to the government on how to best deal with the problem. TEK advisors work for the various levels of government, parks, cultural centres, non-governmental environmental organizations, consulting companies, and research institutes. Many are self-employed.

At a Glance

Imagine travelling across the country, visiting Aboriginal communities to meet and talk to people about their histories and traditional ways of life. You are amazed at the knowledge these communities hold and by the incredible artifacts that people show you. When you return home, you take all this information and enter it into databases and archives that you’ve designed. Soon, you’ll be forming a recommendation to the government about including TEK in today’s classrooms. Your hope is that because of your work Aboriginal students will be able to study traditional foods and medicines for credit in their biology classes and to study traditional homes and boats for credit in their physics classes.

As a traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) advisor, you conduct research in traditional ecological knowledge and then apply it to environmental projects. You collect their data and learn traditional knowledge by talking with Elders and community members. Most of your time is spent indoors, but there are outdoor aspects to this job. As a TEK advisor, you work both on your own and with others. Since a lot of your work is tied to Aboriginal land and history, you often work in your home community. When you work in your home community, you provide valuable knowledge to environmental impact assessments, land use plans, and other environmental projects. As a TEK advisor, you’ll learn many interesting things, but archival research can take a very long time and you may spend weeks looking for the right information. You’ll deal with some people who do not want to talk and other people who don’t want to stop talking.

Since the information you collect and store is not your own, you’ll have to be very careful when you share it. Although these things can make the job difficult, how many jobs allow you to research your own cultural history and spend days listening to the stories of your Elders?

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a traditional ecological knowledge advisor:

  • Conduct studies on the origin, development, and functioning of Aboriginal societies and cultures.
  • Interview Elders and community members.
  • Develop and maintain databases of interviews and stories.
  • Manage archives and keep track of records and catalogues.
  • Search TEK databases to provide advice on environmental issues.
  • Provide TEK to help develop social programs and legislation.
  • Advise politicians and governments on Aboriginal lands and traditional ecological knowledge to ensure Aboriginal representation is included in environmental policies and plans.
  • Study artifacts to learn about the past economic, social, political, and intellectual life.
  • Study the origin and development of languages.
  • Organize displays and exhibitions.

Work Environment

Traditional ecological knowledge advisors work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the office:

  • Conducting archival research
  • Writing reports and recommendations for projects
  • Monitoring databases

In the field:

  • Interviewing elders and community members
  • Surveying the area, collecting field notes and samples

Where to Work

  • Federal, provincial government departments
  • Parks
  • Cultural centres
  • Non-governmental environmental organizations
  • Consulting companies
  • Research institutes
  • Self-employed consultant

Education and Skills

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a traditional ecological knowledge advisor is a college diploma. The following post-secondary programs are most applicable for a career in this field:

  • Sociology
  • Aboriginal studies
  • Development studies
  • Communications
  • History
  • Business administration

Traditional ecological knowledge is imperative for this career. Having knowledge in the bird, animal, and plant identification, and research and technical writing are important skills to have. If you are a high school student considering a career as a traditional ecological knowledge advisor you should have a strong interest in:

  • Geography
  • English/ French
  • History
  • Biology
  • Aboriginal studies/ social studies

Role Models

Your Impact

Occupational Classification

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