Ethno-Ornithology of Yukon and Alaska

Ethno-ornithology, or the study of the relationships between birds and humans, is a relatively new field within the discipline of ethno-biology.  Ethno-ornithology encompasses traditional ecological knowledge of bird distribution, abundance, and behaviour, as well as knowledge of the cultural and social importance of birds to humans.  One goal of ethno-ornithology, and of the broader field of ethno-biology, is to establish linkages between traditional knowledge about the natural world and knowledge provided by western science.

Project Overview

Ethno-ornithology contributes to the growing use of indigenous environmental knowledge (IEK) in conservation, management, and scientific research.  In northern Canada and Alaska, IEK can provide critical information for co-management of wildlife and habitats, for land-use planning, and for community climate change adaptation and mitigation.

An important component of ethno-ornithology, and of ethno-biology in general, is the compilation of indigenous names for animals.  Examining commonalities in names and cultural knowledge among disparate language groups can help to provide baseline information on the historic distribution, abundance, and phenology of birds and other animals.  This information can pre-date that of western science and provide valuable insights into longer term trends in natural ecosystems. 

The goal of this project is to compile a database of bird names and ethnographic information from a variety of indigenous language groups in Yukon, Alaska, and northern British Columbia.  Language groups examined include Koyukon, Tanacross, Lower Tanana, Inuvialuktun, and Southern Tutchone / Tagish / Inland Tlingit, and others.

Project Team

Jared Gonet, B.Sc. in Northern Environmental and Conservation Sciences student, Yukon College/University of Alberta

Dr. Kathryn Aitken, School of Science, Yukon College and Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta

Norman Alexander Easton, Instructor, Anthropology, Archaeology, Northern Studies, School of Liberal Arts, Yukon College


Yukon College Research Fund