Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is the knowledge that people in a given community have developed overtime through accumulation of knowledge and experiences and continues to develop it subject to the change in the surrounding environment. It is a need based intervention; interwoven and assimilated in the culture of the people and is unique to a particular culture and region, often tested over a period of time, adapted to a local culture, tradition or the social set up. The scope of IK is wide and diversified covering wide range of subjects such as – natural resource management, livestock rearing, human health care, food storage and processing, water management, agriculture and allied sector and many other related subjects. Even before the advancement in the modern technologies, mankind have survived well on their own for centuries finding ways to tackle the situation without having to depend on the external sources. IK is a problem solving strategy developed and modified in accordance to the feasibility and change in the surrounding environment. It is a survival mechanism.The many years of rigorous effort put in subject to the trial and error over a long duration has resulted in theirexceptionally well acquaintances with the nature. In fact, IK has a major role to play when it comes to natural resource management and utilization, the practitioners of IK consider people, animal, plant and other element of the universe as connected by a network of social relation and obligations. They understand that the wellbeing of the nature has a direct impact on the wellbeing of the mankind. Therefore the knowledge accumulated by the people constitutes a pool of techniques which are of great significance for longterm sustainability.
As this knowledges are basically in an unwritten form transmitted orally through generations, it is stored in peoples’ memories and activities which are expressed through songs, dances, folklores, myths, cultural norms/values, beliefs, stories, etc. and therefore faces vulnerability of being lost as generation passes by. The younger generations perceive the knowledge as primitive and old, hence, reluctant in continuing the practices. In fact, the knowledge is being eroded as a result of the death of the older generations. Though, there has been a growing awareness about the value of the knowledge among the intellectuals, there hasn’t been much interventions yet. Perhaps with the growing interest of the outsider, the risk of the IK being stolen and misappropriated is felt and realised. In the past, the outsider ignored the knowledge connoting it to be anecdotal and out of use but the realisation of its value is increasingly attracting many to explore and use it to their benefit alone without acknowledging the actual custodian. The knowledge is being copied and remodelled to suit their economic enhancement. Today many IKS (System) are at risk of becoming extinct due to the rapidly changing natural environment and the fast pacing economic, political and cultural changes. Practices vanish as they become inappropriate for new challenges; many disappear due to the intrusion of the foreign technologies or foreign concepts that promise short term gain. IKS on the other hand could be comparatively slow, but nonetheless it is a cost effective, easily accessible, problem solving strategy that ensures long term sustainability. The North East region is the abode of thousands of such indigenous knowledge system and half of them cannot be traced now and whatever can be figured out somehow are in the way of dying because of fewer efforts given to preservation. To fight for its place in the world of advanced technologies, the stakeholders need to do much more than just watch the knowledge disappear. Deliberate effort needs to be made to preserve and protect the knowledge which calls for an extensive research for the identification and documentation of knowledge before it disappears from the face of the earth.
Let us be united and contribute ourself in writing the believes and indigenous knowledge system of our own tribe and community so that the knowledge can be transferred.
Lilika K Zhimomi & Papiya Dutta
Research Scholar & Faculty, USTM