This article examines how indigenous fisherfolk of the western Solomon Islands survived a magnitude 8.1 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the region in 2007. I reconstruct this cataclysmic event through local narratives, surveys, and ethnographic interviews collected in villages on Simbo Island and in Roviana and Vonavona Lagoons. I then compare the responses of the Solomon Islanders to reports and analyses of similar survivor stories among indigenous groups affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Results show that disaster analyses tend to relate effective indigenous responses with intergenerationally transmitted oral histories or culturally embedded stories and myths. These codified bodies of traditional knowledge or mental models about previous events are thought to be put into action when a disaster strikes. However, ethnographic interviews and surveys conducted with Solomon Islanders suggest that oral history was just one dimension of a response that involved an assemblage of local and global knowledges coalescing with performative and experiential practices. To more thoroughly conceptualize indigenous responses, I encourage a practice-based approach. I argue that this framework provides a more productive and inclusive analysis of the relationship between indigenous knowledge and responses to environmental hazards, while also facilitating more effective collaborations between indigenous people and disaster experts who seek participatory strategies of disaster risk reduction.
Oral Traditions or Situated Practices? Understanding How Indigenous Communities Respond to Environmental Disasters
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Matthew Lauer; Oral Traditions or Situated Practices? Understanding How Indigenous Communities Respond to Environmental Disasters. Human Organization 1 June 2012; 71 (2): 176–187. doi: https://doi.org/10.17730/humo.71.2.j0w0101277ww6084
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