Sub-theme 3. Indigenous peoples and globalisation
Commons beyond resources: Indigeneity, Sovereignty and Ecological Care
This panel invites contributors to reflect on the potentialities of ‘ecological care’ to acknowledge Indigenous ontologies in governing the commons.
Indigenous societies express an ecological relationship to their environments in which humans and non-humans are interdependent subjects. Excising indigenous peoples from these same ecological and ontological relations was part of colonial policies around the world. Today Indigenous peoples are still facing the ongoing consequences of this violence, which is at the same time physical and epistemological.
One of the limits of the classical theory regarding the commons is precisely that nature is reduced to a pool of resources governed by humans. Thus, the categories of environmental commons and common-pool resources replicate the separation of society and nature that characterizes the dominating Western ontology. Instead, both indigenous ontologies and feminist theories highlight the potential role of ‘care’ in acknowledging a more symmetrical relation between humans and non-humans.
Contributors are invited to address one or more of the following questions: What is the role of indigenous practices of ‘ecological care’ in governing the commons? How are indigenous peoples expressing their ontologies in the processes to care for the commons? What kind of institutions have been created by the indigenous peoples to exercise their sovereignty based on interdependence and mutualism between humans and non-humans? Can ‘ecological care’ provide a useful set of theoretical and practical tools to acknowledge indigenous ontologies?
1. Landscape of Resistance and Assertion: analysing the drivers and impacts of indigenous women’s forest mobilization in Central India
TERI School of Advanced Studies, India
From centralized colonial and early post-colonial periods to gradual decentralization, forest governance regimes in India have driven fundamental shifts in the indigenous people’s relationship with forests. This relationship found meaning sometimes in everyday contestation for survival, sometimes in violent encounters in the forest and sometimes in courtrooms and judgements. Negotiating access to natural commons, using and caring for them, and offering accountability and responsibility for their management are all fundamentally political processes. In the process, the nature of resource use, appropriation and management, too, gets decided. Drawing from the case of women-led forest mobilization in Central India, the paper illustrates how gender and indigeneity shape forest resources, indigenous women’s everyday lives, and struggles around the forest commons. Indigenous women’s forest activism is prompted by their personal experiences of perceived environmental threats to family survival, lack of local institutions’ accountability, and exclusion from decision-making bodies embedded within the overall patriarchal structures of society. While the social and political effects are still unfolding, the research uses geospatial analysis to examine the outcomes and effects of women-led mobilization on the condition of forest resources.
2. Art and kaitiakitanga in Aotearoa New Zealand forests
University of Auckland, New Zealand
Joint authorship by research group Toi Taiaowhakatairanga:
Sophie Jerram, Molly Mullen, Nick Waipara, Mark Harvey, Chris McBride, Ariane Craig Smith.
This paper presents an approach by the research group, Toi Taiao Whakatairanga, to drawing attention to the health of Indigenous New Zealand forests. This group is made of both Indigenous Māori and pākeha (white settler) researchers who are navigating the ‘hyphen-space’ (Jones and Jenkins) of shared knowledge between matauranga Māori (Indigenous knowledge) and science introduced in colonial times.
In order to raise awareness about two pathogens currently threatening our forests, our group Toi Taiao Whakatairanga commissioned nine Indigenous artists, in media spanning music, video, community practice, fabric graphic novel and digital gaming. Through narrative analysis we reflect that the artists have not focused on the pathogens or seen the forests as threatened resources, but have tended to take a heuristic regard for the forests as landscapes of care. The notion of kaitiakitanga or mutual guardianship emerges as a key concept for many of these artists’ projects.
For future awareness raising initiatives, Toi Taiao Whakatairanga proposes a collaborative, arts/science/mātauranga Māori collaboration which connects to distinct and diverse audiences in a way that acknowledges different paradigms, reveals complex incomplete information, and supports self determination of Indigenous voices.
3. Kaiāulu, Gathering Tides: Perpetuating Caretaking and Connection to Ancestral Coastal Lands on the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA
This presentation explores sustainability of social ecological systems by investigating the rights and responsibilities that come with being of a place, and means to perpetuate indigenous connections to land within imposed western property systems. In Hawaiian, the same word, kuleana, means rights and responsibilities, both of which are inextricably based in ‘āina, land. The word kuleana expresses a value, while also referring to lands given by governing aliʻi (chiefs) to a family as their responsibility, without right of ownership. Over the past quarter-century, popularity of Hawaiʻi’s coasts as luxury retreats for the super wealthy, escalating property taxes, and resulting land commodification have made it increasingly difficult for Hawaiian families to own, live in and access coastal areas. Despite these struggles, Hawaiian fishing communities on the north shore of Kauaʻi continue to exercise kuleana to ancestral lands and gathering areas. Through interviews, analysis of land records, and focus groups conducted by a community research team, this study explores how Hawaiian families maintain presence and connection in ways that emphasize not ownership, but caretaking. Some negotiate stewardship agreements to restore taro patches their families once farmed, now on public lands condemned by the state. Other families continue to care for parcels they no longer own, or return to their home area regularly for gatherings, educational programs, to fish and share harvests. Community actions offer possibilities and spaces of sovereignty through which to restore lost connections while growing new ones, rebuilding caretaking relationships with ʻāina based upon kuleana.
4. Indigenous Land-Water Rights and Climate Change Resiliency
Mount Royal University, Canada
Indigenous land-water rights are vital to climate change resiliency. Climate change poses significant risks to Indigenous peoples, their traditional and contemporary economies, communities, and the natural environment. Indigenous communities are more likely to experience the adverse effects of climate change in several ways: food insecurity as a result of changing ecosystems; mental and physical traumas because of extreme displacement; their cultural ways of life; and their abilities to access essential resources and services such as clean drinking water. Thus, justice for the Indigenous community’s justice and land rights also mean fighting for climate change action, and vice versa, as these two causes are intimately related and mutually inclusive. This presentation examines Indigenous perspectives on climate change resilience. Indigenous Elders and non-Indigenous scholars collectively explore how Indigenous communities of the Treaty 6 region (known as western Canada) and Bangladesh. This paper aims to provide Indigenous communities, particularly those of western Canada and Hilly Indigenous communities in Bangladesh, with new community-led guidelines that can help them make strategic choices about climate change crises to enhance their resiliency to sustainabilities. We hope this research may assist policy-makers and Indigenous communities in sustainable climate change policy development and provide a structured, transparent, and participatory decision support tool to government and communities to guide future climate change planning initiatives.