Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-9-2017

Major Department or Program

Sociology - Environmental Studies


Alissa Cordner


This thesis asks the question, how do Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Western science interact and coexist? It also explores whether elements of Western science are present in the embodiment of TEK and vice versa through a case study of local food producers in the Blue Mountain Region of modern-day southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Eight semi-structured in-depth interviews with Native and non-Native food producers to allowed me to explore their knowledge. A three-layered theoretical framework comprised of Weber’s hermeneutics, Geertz’s local knowledge, and the hermeneutical horizon helps explain the data. I found that TEK and Western science coexist in this region, and that TEK tends to be most fully present in the Native Americans who practice hunting and gathering. Despite its objective agenda, Western science does not exist separate from culture and meaning-making processes, and cannot fundamentally achieve objectivity because of the social humans who engage with it. My theoretical framework helps explain my findings which indicate that all knowledge, whether more closely aligned with the characteristics of TEK or Western science, exists within and relative to place, which is imbued with meaning and social relationships. This thesis offers a broader critique of the supposed dichotomy between TEK and Western scientific knowledge, and proposes a theoretical revision of scientific knowledge based on observed epistemological compatibility.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Traditional ecological knowledge -- United States, Science -- Western Science, Blue Mountains (Or. and Wash.), Food Production, Local foods -- Washington (State), Local foods -- Oregon, Environmental sociology, Theory of Knowledge, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Sociology-Environmental Studies

Permanent URL

Document Type

Whitman Community Accessible Thesis



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).