Traditional Knowledge

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Dmitriy October (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Original Air Date: 
January 31, 2016

Reading books isn't always the best way to learn. Some things you need to learn from your elders, and their wisdom has often been passed down through the generations. We celebrate traditional ways of knowing - from the Potawatomi knowledge of the plant world to the Norwegian folk wisdom of how to chop and burn wood. Also, what modern Westerners can learn from traditional societies.

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You'd never think a book about chopping and burning wood would turn into a runaway bestseller, but Lars Mytting's "Norwegian Wood" is a publishing sensation in Scandinavia. Lars gathers the collected wisdom on everything from how to build a smokeless fire to the art of choosing a husband based on his wood pile.

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Traditional knowledge can surface in the most unlikely places. Take La Crosse, Wisconsin, where many Hmong people settled after the Vietnam War. Master blacksmith Tong Khai Vang and his apprentice and translator Kong Mong Yang show us the art of turning hot metal into Hmong knives.

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Botanist Robin Kimmerer describes her field experiments as like interviewing a plant. She believes nature is full of living beings - rocks and water as well as plants and animals. As both a Ph.D biologist and a member of the Potawatomi Naiton, she's trying to reconcile modern science with the wisdom of her Native elders.

"The Wayfinders" by Wade Davis
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Composer Philip Glass says he was transported by "The Wayfinders" - Wade Davis' celebration of indigenous cultures.

Audio

Wade Davis has been called the Indiana Jones of anthropology. He's traveled deep into the Amazon rain forest to meet shamans; he's investigated Haitian zombies; he's climbed high into the Tibetan mountains to photograph snow leopards. He says indigenous people have a fundamentally different way of seeing the world than we do in modern society.

Kerepunu women at the marketplace of Kalo, British New Guinea, 1885
Articles

A conversation with renowned biologist Jared Diamond, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Guns, Germs and Steel.” His new book is “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”

Length: 
11:00
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Airdates
January 31, 2016
November 13, 2016
April 12, 2018
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Last modified: 
April 13, 2018