CHAGS12 Panel

Hunter Gatherer Education

Organizers: Jennifer Hays, Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø (UiT); Edmond Dounias; French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD); Velina Ninkova, UiT; Sidsel Saugestad, UiT

This panel focuses on the role of education in the lives of contemporary hunter-gatherers. By education we are referring broadly to intergenerational knowledge transmission that is practiced by all cultures, and also more narrowly to formal education, commonly associated with schooling – and to the inter-relations between these spheres. For hunter-gatherer communities today, questions related to education in both senses are inseparable from their broader struggles for survival and recognition of their rights.

The extreme marginalization of hunters and gatherers in modern societies is mirrored in their schooling experience. For most hunter-gatherer communities, formal education is simultaneously difficult to access, of poor quality, culturally insensitive, and disconnected from communities’ immediate realities. Cultural forms of education are based on knowledge transmission approaches that are deeply integrated into social structures, values and cosmology, and subsistence strategies of the group. These approaches have been highly successful in a hunter-gatherer context. As traditional livelihoods and resources are increasingly narrowed, hunter-gatherer communities are seeking other options. Formal education is one route to increased economic opportunities, and ideally provides access to dominant languages and other skills needed to negotiate for their rights. It is also a favored approach of governments and international organizations; global development goals of “education for all” present schooling as the solution to improving livelihoods and circumstances of hunter gatherers (and other marginalized groups). However, cultural disparities and enormous structural barriers make successful participation in formal schools extremely challenging. Furthermore, in many areas, the available schools do not prepare hunter-gatherers for realistic livelihood options. Alternative education projects have been developed in some communities, with varying degrees of success.

This panel will address the multi-faceted issues that education entails for hunter-gatherer communities. We invite papers addressing, but not limited to, the following, interconnected questions and issues:

  • How are hunter-gatherer communities engaging with formal education systems?
  • What kinds of alternative projects are in place, and what kinds of approaches do they take?
  • What traditional knowledge-transmission practices are in use today among contemporary hunter-gatherers?
  • To what extent are traditional knowledge transmission methods integrated into teaching approaches practiced in the available formal education systems? (or, how could they be?)
  • What does ‘western’ pedagogical research have to contribute to the study of hunter-gatherer education?
  • What strategic approaches are hunter-gatherer communities employing to gain access to the skills and knowledge that they deem appropriate for their needs?
  • How is the concept of ‘education’ connected to broader issues, including realistic livelihood opportunities, land rights, and self-determination?

Importantly, this panel will address the question: How can a research-based understanding of these issues lead to better support for educational self-determination for hunter-gatherer communities? And what kinds of research are needed?

This panel will be connected with the establishment of the Hunter Gatherer Education Research and Advocacy Group under the ISHGR, which will begin with a pre-conference workshop at CHAGS 12.