Indigenous Geographies Working Group


Speakers Series


Toward Respect and Reciprocity: Ethics in Collaborations across Indigenous Knowledges and Climate Change Science

Professor Kyle Powys Whyte
Michigan State University

Friday, November 22, 2013
3:30 PM
The Commons – Spooner Hall

Indigenous communities in North America, such as federally-recognized tribes, are the populations taking concerted actions to adapt now to some of the current and anticipated impacts of climate change. An important aspect of these concerted actions is collaborations connecting Indigenous communities and public and non-profit institutions that support climate science research. These collaborations present both opportunities and dangers for Indigenous communities, raising ethical concerns between Indigenous and scientific communities and institutions, especially on differences in assumptions about the credibility and use of knowledge. This presentation will cover in detail the history of interactions between Indigenous communities and climate science and the recent ethical concerns expressed especially by Indigenous scholars and leaders. The presentation will conclude with a set of recommendations for climate scientists about appropriate ethical standards based on respect and reciprocity for working across the table with Indigenous communities on understanding climate change impacts.

Urban indigeneity, neighborhood regeneration and indigenous community gardens: An indigenous health initiative?

Dr. Brad Coombes
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, March 2, 2012
3:30 PM
412 Lindley Hall

Maori – the Indigenous population of New Zealand – supposedly lead an ‘obesity epidemic’ which is both real and constructed according to certain cultural stereotypes and social relations. Recently, the maara kai programme, which aims to establish community food gardens on marae or the consecrated land associated with meeting houses and other Maori facilities, has gained considerable attention as a state response to Maori health problems. The visibility and numeric significance of these gardens has been proclaimed as a new model for health provision within state-community partnerships. In this presentation, I will explore three other explanations for the apparent success of the maara kai programme within the Auckland urban area. First, several Maori communities have appropriated the health emphasis to explore a more holistic approach to community wellbeing which may both complete and problematize state officials’ narrow focus on physical health and obesity. Second, urban marae have exploited the programme to establish political space and to secure resources in a policy and socio-cultural context which otherwise normalizes urban Maori as inauthentic. Third, maara kai are sites and vectors to contest neoliberal governance: Maori have exploited contradictions within neoliberal approaches to service provision to acquire unintended state support for cultural education, neighbourhood regeneration and self-determination projects.

Red and Green: Native Science and the Entangled Ecologies of our Times

Associate Professor Melissa Nelson
American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University

Thursday, December 1, 2011
3:30 PM
The Commons - Spooner Hall

Indigenous Geographies as Challenge and Invitation: Geography for and with Indigenous Peoples

Professor Richard Howitt
Chair of Human Geography, Department of Environment & Geography
Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Monday, May 9, 2011
4:00 PM
317 Lindley Hall

Academic discussion of Indigenous geographies is generally framed by a series of binaries around notions of presence/absence, possession/dispossession, and rights/charity. By reconsidering each of these binary constructions, this seminar considers the foundations for a new orientation to Indigenous Geographies and Indigenous Rights, and explores how the discipline might respond. Geography’s recent cultural, political, ecological and postmodern turns open opportunities for new engagements with Indigenous peoples, territories and futures. Recognition of Indigenous knowledges and their importance in global cultural diversity and human futures, for example, has fostered a range of responses across geography and the social sciences from serious engagement with Indigenous involvement in biodiversity conservation to development of the ecological humanities as an approach to ontological pluralism. Similarly, development of integrated frameworks for understanding the interplay of environmental and social justice in Indigenous domains has fostered new approaches to participatory social, economic and environmental research in partnerships between Indigenous groups and geographers and other social scientists. In most higher education systems, Indigenous people continue to experience problems of access and exclusion. Higher degree completions of Indigenous students remain relatively rare – and geography has not been particularly successful in fostering high levels of participation and achievement for Indigenous students. Despite the value and relevance of geographical research and frameworks for the struggles of many Indigenous peoples for survival, sustainability and self-determination, the discipline has not emerged as a major qualification target for Indigenous students in many places. Despite the many points of relevance and value in geographical perspectives to Indigenous peoples, establishing geography as a valued partner in education, research and practice, then, is a significant challenge for the discipline.

Rehabilitating the 'Noble Savage': Cultural Turns in Transborder Conservation

Associate Professor Maano Ramutsindela
University of Cape Town
Department of Environmental and Geographical Science
2011 Mandela-Mellon Fellow - W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Harvard

Friday, March 4, 2011
4:00 - 5:00 PM
317 Lindley Hall

Various aspects of the environment, from ground water to the management of air, are increasingly being used to demonstrate the need for managing nature beyond the borders of the state. In fact, the dominant environmental paradigm is replete with propositions for cross-border environmental regimes of one sort or the other. And, culture, as a way of life, has also been incorporated into this paradigm. In this paper I demonstrate the contradictions that arise from attempts to use culture as a justification for transborder conservation and how official wisdom selectively suppresses these contradictions for convenience. I draw on examples from two case studies to argue that proponents of transborder conservation appreciate culture when it suits their purpose but demonize it when it opens up possibilities for environmental justice to which they pay lip service. They appreciate culture in its historical context in order to give conservation projects some credibility while at the same time denying the custodians of cultures a place in those projects. I use these examples to develop a critique on the ideology of transborder conservation and the practices it engenders on the ground, and to challenge contemporary paradigms on society and nature. I conclude that the emergence of cultural transborder conservation areas gives imperialism an indigenous face and also points to new avenues to which critical scholarship should pay attention.

Reflections in the Water: Kiowa Stories, Geographies and New Traditions in the Ever-Changing World

Mark H. Palmer, PhD
University of Missouri-Columbia
Department of Geography

Friday, October 29, 2010
3:00 - 4:15 PM
317 Lindley Hall

People share experiences, lessons, information, and knowledge through stories. Stories and storytelling are important components of Indigenous knowledge systems information systems. In this presentation, I will discuss the geographic thoughts of a father and son through our interpretations of stories and associated places. Both of us have different memories and experiences of the stories and places. Some of the Kiowa mythical stories are well known and contain elements that are shared across many American Indian groups in North America and perhaps beyond. Other stories are historical in that the knowledge and teachings held within the oral literatures are known, collectively, among a single American Indian tribe. And some stories are personal, family-centered. Personal stories add rich textures of place and more content on Kiowa geographic discourse. As we write a book, my father and I are approaching the origin stories, Sun stories, mountain stories, memories of the Sun Dance and new family stories in our own way and within our own personal contexts. In Kiowa we say: é:hàu cáuihè:jègùijè gàu gà sáutjèhà:àl ét àu:màu. 'We are taking the stories in a new direction and adding new ones'. This is our contribution.