The papers presented here originated with a symposium held at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, in 2012. They describe how native people and indigenous researchers view and understand the cultural and biological complexity inherent in coupled socio-ecological systems. The researchers note that interactions between native peoples and their environments consist of a complex network of linkages, feedbacks, and change, and they describe synthetic approaches to problem solving. These approaches often spring from long cultural traditions and recent adaptations to environments. There are examples of native peoples successfully managing biota and ecosystems for thousands of years. Yet, current societal conditions often challenge indigenous-based efforts to continue managing ecosystems and biota. Nonetheless, in the face of the new challenges native people continue to innovate and manage their environments and biota.