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#INDG2015 Fall Term 2021, Week 3: Indigenous Ecological Ways of Knowing in North America

  1. INDG 2015: Indigenous Ecological Ways of Knowing September 27, 2021 Dr. Zoe Todd, Department of Sociology and Anthropology Week 3: Indigenous Ecological Ways of Knowing, North America
  2. Week 2 Recap • Environmental racism • What examples did we explore last week? • Fanon: • ‘Decolonization is an agenda for total disorder’
  3. Class outline Objectives for Today’s Class • Revisiting Vanessa Watts from Week 1 (‘Indigenous Place- Thought’) • Enrique Salmón: ecological ways of knowing, relationality • #LandBack
  4. Leroy Little Bear, 2016 • “the fish, for instance, nobody's talked about the fish in this Congress, not that I know of. But, the fish has been around -- think about it -- way before the dinosaurs, way before the Neanderthals, way before our time. The fish is still around. I wonder what scientific formula the fish has discovered. We should ask the fish. They've survived.” - Leroy Little Bear, Congress of the Humanities, Calgary 2016
  5. Vanessa Watts Indigenous Place Thought (returning to this text from week 1) Watts 2013, p. 22
  6. Watts: Indigenous Place-Thought • “Our understandings of the world are often viewed as mythic by “modern” society, while our stories are considered to be an alternative mode of understanding and interpretation rather than “real” events. Colonization is not solely an attack on peoples and lands; rather, this attack is accomplished in part through purposeful and ignorant misrepresentations of Indigenous cosmologies.” (Watts 2013: 22)
  7. Watts: Indigenous Place-Thought • “in a Haudenosaunee or Anishnaabe framework is that our cosmological frameworks are not an abstraction but rather a literal and animate extension of Sky Woman’s and First Woman’s thoughts; it is impossible to separate theory from praxis if we believe in the original historical events of Sky Woman and First Woman. So it is not that Indigenous peoples do not theorize, but that these complex theories are not distinct from place.” (Watts 2013: 22)
  8. Watts: Indigenous Place-Thought • “non-human beings choose how they reside, interact and develop relationships with other non-humans.So, all elements of nature possess agency, and this agency is not limited to innate action or causal relationships.” (Watts 2013: 23)
  9. Watts: Indigenous Place-Thought • “From a theoretical standpoint, the material (body/land) becomes abstracted into epistemological spaces as a resource for non- Indigenous scholars to implode their hegemonic borders. The excavated First Woman and all of her teachings, ontologies, and actions are interpreted as sexy lore and points of theoretical jump-offs to dismantle and dissect that which oppresses” (Watts 2013: 31)
  10. Watts: Indigenous Place-Thought • “Our cosmologies (and the theories within them) are righteously different and cannot be separated from the stuff of nature. When an Indigenous cosmology is translated through a Euro-Western process, it necessitates a distinction between place and thought.” (Watts 2013: 32)
  11. Enrique Salmón: ‘kincentric ecology’ • “Indigenous people view both themselves and nature as part of an extended ecological family that shares ancestry and origins. It is an awareness that life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin. The kin, or relatives, include all the natural elements of an ecosystem. Indigenous people are affected by and, in turn, affect the life around them. The interactions that result from this "kincentric ecology" enhance and preserve the ecosystem. Interactions are the commerce of ecosystem functioning.” (Salmón 2000, p. 1327)
  12. Salmón: iwígara • “Iwígara is the total interconnectedness and integration of all life in the Sierra Madres, physical and spiritual. To say iwígara to a Raramuri calls on that person to realize life in all its forms. The person recalls the beginning of Raramuri life, origins, and relationships to animals, plants, the place of nurturing, and the entities to which the Raramuri look for guidance.” (Salmón 2000, p. 1328)
  13. What are some cognate (similar) concepts to iwígara in other Indigenous cosmologies? • Wahkohtowin (Cree legal-ethical- philosophical concept of relatedness of all beings, kinship) • What other examples come to mind?
  14. Salmón: Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food and Resilience (2012) food-and-resilience-bioneers/
  15. Indigenous Place-thought and food sovereignty (linking Watts and Salmón) • Relationships to place are shaped by food: plants, animals we consume become part of us – reciprocal relationships through food are intensely visceral, embodied (the taste of a specific kind of corn in a place it has grown for generations; the taste of landlocked char from a specific small arctic lake) – place, knowing, food, sovereignty are all interconnected
  16. Food, Place, Land: sovereignty is ‘em-placed’ • Drawing on all of the readings we have done so far, the key message to pull from the texts is that diverse Indigenous nations co-constitute (co-create) their existence with place (which includes land, waters, atmospheres, plants, rocks, animals, insects, stories, ancestors, spirits and other beings). Place and land are not just ‘objects’, but living beings with agency. So when we talk about Indigenous sovereignty, it is about maintaining autonomous relationships to place and land – not through the western understanding of (colonial, capitalist) sovereignty tied to property, but as relations, kin. This is different from euro-western notions of sovereignty which is understood as the right to control land for extraction (resource extraction), dumping (pollution), or for enacting forms of totalizing war or enforcing hard borders to keep other communities out even in times of deep human rights of environmental crises.
  17. #LandBack • “Land Back is a movement that aims to re-establish indigenous political authority over territories Indigenous tribes and activist groups claim as belonging to them. Scholars from the Indigenous-run Yellowhead Institute at Ryerson University describe Land Back as a process of "reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction: breathing life into rights and responsibilities."[2] Land Back is a concept that has existed since indigenous land was first colonized by European settlers.[citation needed] In addition to the transfer of deeds, Land Back includes respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water.[2]” (source: Wikipedia) • Hashtag coined by Arnell Tailfeathers in 2018
  18. Weekly participation prompt • How do relationships to land shape your experiences of environmental issues in your own life?