662 Fieldwork in Indian Country: A Conversational Experience

Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Randy A. Peppler, CIMMS/Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Handout (3.5 MB)

This poster will describe my fieldwork experiences with Native American farmers in southwestern Oklahoma the past two years. Based on historical documents work I performed as pre-research for my dissertation proposal, I found evidence of and became further interested in traditional weather and climate knowledge possessed by Native peoples now living in Oklahoma. Some of this knowledge was observational, while some was part of ceremonial or oral tradition. Based on these leads, I developed a semi-structured interview protocol to help seek contemporary evidence of this knowledge from Native farmers, people who live close to the land and depend on it and the skies for a livelihood. I wished to know how they observe and conceptualize weather and climate, including in traditional ways, and how they use this knowledge in their efforts to farm, ranch and garden, in some cases within the broader framework of food sovereignty. I have learned through my conversations that there is a vibrant Native effort within Oklahoma to become more self-sufficient, or as once said to me, to “decolonize.” The poster will describe how I got started along my path to entry into the “Indian Country” of southwestern Oklahoma, the development of my interview protocol, and some interesting experiences to date as I have talked to farmers and other Native traditionalists. It also will describe the reciprocal nature of the rewarding relationship I have developed with the people who are helping me, which has become an integral part of my fieldwork, including some of the events I have been asked to help with and participate in. Conversations to date are rekindling memories of weather knowledge and stories once passed down, and are revealing observational signs some of the farmers still rely on. The work also adds to the broader scholarship of cross-cultural research and environmental co-management efforts in which exploring different ways of knowing – not just advances in science but also on-the-ground, rooted-in-place-and-meaning observations of, experiences in, and adaptations to the natural world – has contributed unique, unexpected, and non-intuitive perspectives for conceptualizing, recognizing, and understanding our environment.
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