Language extinction triggers the loss of unique medicinal knowledge | PNAS

Abstract:  The United Nations proclamation of 2022–2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages aims to raise global awareness about their endangerment and importance for sustainable development. Indigenous languages contain the knowledge that communities have about their surrounding plants and the services they provide. The use of plants in medicine is a particularly relevant example of such ecosystem services. Here, we find that most medicinal knowledge is linguistically unique—i.e., known by a single language—and more strongly associated with threatened languages than with threatened plants. Each indigenous language is therefore a unique reservoir of medicinal knowledge—a Rosetta stone for unraveling and conserving nature’s contributions to people.

 

The Global Extinction of Languages Is Threatening a Vital Type of Human Knowledge

“As human languages are driven to extinction around the world, a verbal encyclopedia of medical knowledge is on the brink of being forgotten.

Among 12,495 medicinal uses for plants in indigenous communities, new research has found over 75 percent of those plants are each tied to just one local language. If these unique words trickle out of use, so too may the knowledge they contain….

Language extinction is a tragic phenomenon that’s been occurring worldwide, as languages spoken by precious few people are replaced by larger ones. Roughly one language ceases to be spoken every four months, and 3,054 languages are currently endangered around the world….

The vast majority of plant species in the study were found to have medical properties described in just one indigenous language, many of which are themselves endangered….

In North America, for instance, the authors found waning indigenous languages held 86 percent of all unique knowledge on plant medicine. In the northwest Amazon, on the other hand, 100 percent of medicinal plant knowledge is restricted to languages on the edge of extinction. …”

Consultation with Indigenous Peoples on the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

“As a part of a series of thematic consultations for building a global consensus on Open Science, UNESCO organized an online meeting on January 15 to take stock of Indigenous peoples‘ perspective on Open Science.  

In view of developing a standard-setting instrument on Open Science, UNESCO is leading an inclusive, transparent and consultative process. In this process, inclusiveness of diverse knowledge systems and knowledge holders is essential, and the first draft of the Recommendation is based on the broad inputs provided by stakeholders from all regions and groups.

Considering the great importance given to the creation of a productive relationship between Open Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, the consultation with Indigenous Peoples brought together 120 participants from 50 countries, including indigenous scholars and academics, members of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), members of different initiatives such as the Forest Peoples Programme, the Global Indigenous Data Alliance, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, and the drafting committee of the CARE principles for Indigenous Data Governance.    …”

UCLA researchers digitize massive collection of folk medicine | UCLA

“A project more than 40 years in the making, the Archive of Healing is one of the largest databases of medicinal folklore from around the world. UCLA Professor David Shorter has launched an interactive, searchable website featuring hundreds of thousands of entries that span more than 200 years, and draws from seven continents, six university archives, 3,200 published sources, and both first and second-hand information from folkloric field notes.

The entries address a broad range of health-related topics including everything from midwifery and menopause to common colds and flus. The site aims to preserve Indigenous knowledge about healing practices, while preventing that data from being exploited for profit….”

Talking Stories: Encyclopedia of Traditional Ecological Knowledge

“Talking Stories is an open educational resource dedicated to raising awareness of hunter-gatherer literary traditions and ecological knowledge, and encouraging their incorporation into Western teaching. To this end, it aggregates stories from diverse foraging peoples across the planet, explicates the ecological knowledge encoded in these stories, and guides users to additional resources. It is intended for use by educators seeking to integrate traditional Indigenous literature and natural history into their courses, and by students and researchers interested in the origins of literature, natural history, and cultural transmission….”

The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance: overview and Australian activities – Hanging Together

“The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance focus on appropriate use and reuse of Indigenous data. The principles recenter and reframe discussion and action on the sovereign rights and dignity of Indigenous Peoples, especially against the backdrop of “big data” and broad open access initiatives that are prevalent in today’s libraries and archives….

On February 2, 2021 representatives of the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) and the Equity for Indigenous Research and Innovation Coordinating Hub (ENRICH) and representatives from National Library of Australia and University of Sydney joined attendees from Australian and New Zealand institutions for a discussion session hosted by National and State Libraries Australia (NSLA) and the OCLC Research Library Partnership. The panelists shared updates and examples of their work, as well as lessons they’ve learned. Many thanks to those who offered wisdom and expertise. This is a summary of what was shared in the session….”

The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance: overview and Australian activities – Hanging Together

“The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance focus on appropriate use and reuse of Indigenous data. The principles recenter and reframe discussion and action on the sovereign rights and dignity of Indigenous Peoples, especially against the backdrop of “big data” and broad open access initiatives that are prevalent in today’s libraries and archives….

On February 2, 2021 representatives of the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) and the Equity for Indigenous Research and Innovation Coordinating Hub (ENRICH) and representatives from National Library of Australia and University of Sydney joined attendees from Australian and New Zealand institutions for a discussion session hosted by National and State Libraries Australia (NSLA) and the OCLC Research Library Partnership. The panelists shared updates and examples of their work, as well as lessons they’ve learned. Many thanks to those who offered wisdom and expertise. This is a summary of what was shared in the session….”

The Monopoly of Journal Subscriptions and the Commodification of Research – The Wire Science

“So the final question is whether the government of India should try to address the basic problem of proprietorship of knowledge, and its subsequent commercialisation, by negotiating for a better deal from journal proprietors for access at less exorbitant fees; or should it examine how to change the law to give proprietary ownership to the creators of the knowledge?

The earlier bulk subscriptions negotiated by Uruguay and Egypt, cost them about Rs 48 per capita, while India currently spends about Rs 12 per capita. For India to arrive at an agreement at the same rate as Uruguay and Egypt would mean an expenditure of roughly Rs 6,500 crore (or $890mn). As it is, in India, public funding for research is scarce and becoming scarcer by the day through market-friendly policies. Changing the law, on the other hand, would either mean modifying existing legal provisions or at least passing legislation with respect to publicly funded research and its products within India as well as free access to such research globally….

Meanwhile, we must be quite clear that Sci-Hub and Library Genesis are providing an enormously useful service to scholars all over the world. It will be a long time before any official agency in India will be able to provide a comparable service. The best we can hope for is that the court cases against them languish for as long as possible as they do for much less laudable causes.”

“Perspectives on Openness” video and transcript now available | York University Libraries

“York University Libraries’ panel discussion for Open Access Week 2020, “Perspectives on Openness: Honouring Indigenous Ways of Knowing,” took place virtually on Oct. 20, 2020. Video recordings and transcripts are available online via YorkSpace. The recordings and transcripts can be used for educational purposes, including research and teaching….”

Perspectives on Openness: Honouring Indigenous Ways of Knowing – YouTube

“October 19-26, 2020 is Open Access Week and this year’s theme is Open With Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion. In an era of open scholarship and research, how do we as a research community navigate and balance openness while respecting Indigenous knowledge and cultural expression? Hosted by the York University Libraries, and moderated by Stacy Allison-Cassin, Associate Librarian, this panel event offers an opportunity to encourage broader participation in conversations and actions around emerging scholarly communication issues and will center Indigenous approaches to open scholarship and research.

Join us with Alan Ojiig Corbiere, Assistant Professor (Department of History), Deborah McGregor, Associate Professor (Osgoode Hall Law School and Faculty of Environmental Studies), and Sean Hillier, Assistant Professor (School of Health Policy & Management) as they lead a discussion on the themes of openness, open scholarship, and Indigenous knowledge….”