Indigenous Knowledge and the Microbiome – Bridging the Disconnect Between Colonized Places, Peoples, and the Unseen Influences That Shape Our Health and Well-Being
Indigenous Peoples have a rich and long-standing connection with the environments that they descend from-a connection that has informed a deep and multifaceted understanding of the relationship between human well-being and the environment. Through cultural narratives and practices, much of this knowledge has endured despite the ongoing effects that colonization has had on many Indigenous peoples across the world. These narratives and practices, based on observation, experimentation, and practical application over many generations, have the potential to make compelling contributions to our understanding of the environmental microbiome and its relationship to health. Furthermore, the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives regarding the microbiome opens pathways to those who rarely engage with the field and its learnings. Within the scientific community, Indigenous perspectives have not always been acknowledged as valid contributions and are often seen as myth or lacking rigor. Thus, this paper aims to explore an Indigenous perspective of the microbiome as an unseen influence on health and well-being by framing the importance of the natural environment, Indigenous knowledge and leadership, and future research directions that can contribute to this domain. Although the Indigenous perspective in this article reflects the experiences, worldviews, and knowledge of two New Zealand Māori authors, it is hoped that the concepts discussed can relate to Indigenous peoples, and non-Indigenous advocates, globally.