Using traditional stories to advance science
September 15, 2015 3:02 PM   Subscribe

"This turns out to be a story about stories—how they merge into histories, how fragile they are, and how urgent."

"The two of them did something un-geoscientific: they decided to take the Makah story not as myth, but as history. That is, they assumed the Makah were describing a geologically-recent tsunami, compared the Makah narrative with their understanding of Cape Flattery’s geology, found the similarity between story and geology “noteworthy,” and published their findings in the scientific literature. After that, other scientists also went looking in the stories for history."

Related to this previous post from the blue:
posted by Catenation (7 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This looks very cool — I love anything NorthWest Coast Native American. Thanks for the post.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2015

I have been to the Hakai Institute and worked with the folks that do their thing up there. It is an amazing place, and the science and cultural studies they do there are remarkable. It is a living crucible of reconciliation between the western science and indigenous science.

And it is a remarkable setting, a beautiful building and a stunning idea.
posted by salishsea at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Many cultures that settled in a particular region have myths about local phenomena or geographic features. It regularly pains me to think of how America is such a beautiful land, with so many spectacular things unique to it (e.g., the most common region in the world for tornadoes by far is the Great Plains and the Southern United States), and yet most of us are so little acquainted with its tales, whether because their tellers were killed or because they are just so devalued in mainstream American society.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:10 PM on September 15, 2015

I've worked at the Hakai Institute also, many times actually. It's an incredible place with a righteous vision and backed by a philanthropist couple who are second to none.
posted by Rumple at 9:12 PM on September 15, 2015

Moving back to the site of a tsunami is probably a smart thing to do. The original settlement was there for a reason; tsunamis aside, it's probably the best place to live. And there probably won't be another tsunami for generations. So if you move you have to get reestablished somewhere else; if you stay put your descendants will be free to occupy the whole area. In the long term I bet the descendants of people who stay put will out-compete the descendants of people who move away from natural disasters.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on September 15, 2015

That reminds me of this news story I also saw today. (Paper here).
posted by lollusc at 3:46 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Fascinating paper Lollusc, thanks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:45 PM on September 16, 2015

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