Scholarships available in marine education

Sylvia Spalding, Special to Today
3/27/09

The National Marine Educators Association is seeking citizens of Indian country and the U.S. Pacific Islands interested in attending the 2009 NMEA annual conference to be held June 29 – July 3 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif.

The NMEA brings together individuals, primarily in the United States and Canada, interested in the study and enjoyment of fresh and salt water and provides a focus for marine and aquatic studies all over the world.

This will be the first time in the organization’s 33-year history that scholarships to the conference are being considered for an indigenous cultural practitioner or expert in traditional knowledge, or TK, and for an educator representing diversity. Deadline for applying is April 1. Interested cultural practitioners and TK experts can contact Sylvia Spalding at sylvia.spalding@noaa.gov or Don Hudson at donhudson@chewonki.org. Marine educators representing diversity can contact Mellie Lewis at mellielewis@hotmail.com.

Impetus for the TK scholarship comes from the NMEA TK Committee, comprised of individuals interested in promoting traditional knowledge as it relates to marine education, science and ecosystems. The committee was formed in 2007 following a request from members in the Pacific Islands who were concerned that the newly developed and widely promoted Ocean Literacy Principles and Concepts lacked a clear TK perspective. State standards regarding marine science as well as federal funding for marine education projects are increasingly being tied to these principles and concepts. For more information visit www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy.

There are concerns about the ongoing loss of TK in the Pacific Islands, as evidenced by the requests for support to promote it that had been voiced by participants of the Na Ho`ohanohano I Na Kupuna Puwalu (Honor Our Ancestors conference series) held 2006-2007 in Honolulu and the International Pacific Marine Educators Conference held January 2007 in Honolulu.

At the TK Committee’s first meeting, Pacific Islanders and the Penobscot Nation met at the 2007 NMEA conference in Portland, Maine to explore their interest in working together to promote traditional knowledge. The committee’s second meeting included representatives from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and from the Gullah-Geechee community during the 2008 NMEA conference in Savannah, Ga.

In its two-year existence, the TK Committee has also successfully promoted NMEA scholarships to send TK and Ocean Literacy representatives to the 2008 International Pacific Marine Educators Network conference in Townsville, Australia, during which an IPMEN Traditional Indigenous Local Knowledge Committee was formed. The next IPMEN conference is scheduled for 2010 in Fiji.

The TK Committee is still in its formative stages, and non-NMEA members are invited to join. The committee is looking to work with indigenous cultural practitioners and TK experts throughout the North American continent and Pacific Islands to develop a mission statement, goals and definitions for traditional knowledge; to develop and promote scholarships to invite a traditional practitioner or representative to the annual NMEA conference and to the bi-annual IPMEN conference; to promote TK presence at NMEA annual conferences, particularly those with generational knowledge who are indigenous to the area where they practice this knowledge; to develop and promote a supplement to the Ocean Literacy essential principles and fundamental concepts that takes into account traditional knowledge, as well as to develop and promote a protocol for the sharing of traditional knowledge to protect it from exploitation while allowing it to be shared; to help NMEA regional chapters locate, identify and report on traditional communities in their region so a database of Native and traditional communities and communication with these communities can be implemented; and to work with the IPMEN TILK Committee to have a TK presence at the IPMEN conferences.

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