Preparing for the health impacts of climate change in Indigenous communities: The role of community-based adaptation


Climate change presents substantial risks to the health of Indigenous peoples. Research is needed to inform health policy and practice for managing risks, with community based adaptation (CBA) emerging as one approach to conducting research to support such efforts. Few, if any, studies however, have critically examined the application of CBA in a health or Indigenous peoples context. We examine the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of health-related CBA research in Indigenous community settings, drawing on the experiences of the multi-nation interdisciplinary Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) project. Data collection was guided by a framework developed to evaluate CBA projects. Semi-structured interviews (n = 114) and focus groups (n = 23, 177 participants) were conducted with faculty-based researchers, institutional partners, community members, students, and trainees involved in the IHACC project in Canada, Uganda, and Peru. Results illustrate the importance of CBA in co-generating knowledge on climate-health vulnerability and adaptation options, capacity building, and informing decision choices. There are also significant challenges of conducting CBA which can have unintended negative consequences, with results emphasizing the importance of managing the tension between health research and tangible and immediate benefits; developing a working architecture for collective impact, including team building, identification of common goals, and meaningful engagement of knowledge users; and the need to continuously monitor and evaluate progress. CBA holds significant promise in a health adaptation context, but only in the ‘right’ circumstances, where considerable time is spent developing the work with partners.

Resource Type

Ford, J. D., Sherman, M., Berrang-Ford, L., Llanos, A., Carcamo, C., Harper, S., . . . Edge, V. (2018). Preparing for the health impacts of climate change in Indigenous communities: The role of community-based adaptation. Global Environmental Change, 49, 129-139. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.02.006

Rebecca Tsosie: Indigenous Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Extremes

Native Nations Institute

The School of Geography & Development presented the “My Arizona” Lecture of Prof. Rebecca Tsosie, Regents Professor of Law at Univeristy of Arizona on Friday, November 1, 2019. Her lecture, "Indigenous Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Extremes: Traditional Knowledge and the Systems of Survival" was recorded by the Native Nations Institute and abstract as follows: Tribal governments are not just "stakeholders" in the public policy debates over climate change; they are sovereign governments with longstanding political and legal rights to land, water, and natural resources. There is a vital role for Indigenous concepts of sustainability within the frameworks that drive climate policy, and this lecture explores the legal, political and moral arguments for the inclusion of tribal governments within Arizona, national and global climate governance.

Resource Type

Native Nations Institute. "Rebecca Tsosie: Indigenous Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Extremes" My Arizona Lecture Series, The School of Geography & Development, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 1, 2019

Transcript available upon request. Please email:

Partnerships and sustainability are key to developing tribal workforces


Distilling lessons learned from that endeavor, PTG identified 15 strategic considerations that tribal leaders, workforce development staff, and other decision-makers must tackle as they craft workforce development approaches capable of achieving their definition of what “success” looks like for tribal citizens and the nation as a whole. These mission critical aspects of workforce development have a direct bearing on the ability of tribal workforce development approaches to make a transformative, sustainable difference. The following shares the final two considerations explored in the toolkit: partnerships and sustainability.

Resource Type

NCAI PTG. 2018. "Partnerships and sustainability are key to developing tribal workforces." Indian Country Today. September 17, 2018.… 

Greg Cajete: Indigenous governance and sustainability

Native Nations Institute

Greg Cajete, Tewa of the Santa Clara Pueblo and a renowned scholar and author on indigenous education serves as the Director of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico. His works have merged native history, cultural practices, and knowledge into the cross section of education fields such as Science, Ecology, and the Arts.  Dr. Cajete has built a wealth of curriculum for indigenous educators and advocates for bringing sustainability into focus when creating indigenous governance. His thoughts on the matter of indigenous education and governance as well as the importance to address climate change are explored in relation to Native Nation building. 

Native Nations
Resource Type

Native Nations Institute. "Greg Cajete: Indigenous governance and sustainability." Leading Native Nations, Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, February 22, 2018

For a complete transcript, please email us:

Blackfeet Nation's Siyeh Corporation


For years the Blackfeet Nation struggled to create sustainable tribal enterprises that could produce revenue for the nation and meet the needs of its citizens for jobs and services. Many of these efforts did not succeed because of conflicts within the tribal government. In 1999, the Nation tried a new strategy. It established a federally chartered, tribally owned corporation designed to manage businesses on behalf of the government and to protect those businesses from inappropriate political influence. Named after a great Blackfeet warrior known for his fearless leadership, the Siyeh Corporation today runs multiple businesses including a cable television company, a heritage center, an art gallery, and two casinos. The Corporation promotes economic growth and stability while preserving Blackfeet cultural and traditional values. Siyeh is changing the economic landscape of an impoverished reservation, increasing the Blackfeet Nation’s revenues and enhancing Blackfeet self-government.

Native Nations
Resource Type

"Siyeh Corporation". Honoring Nations: 2005 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2006. Report.


This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Lummi: Safe, Clean Waters


Governed by a five-member, independently elected board that includes two seats that are open to non-tribal fee land owners, the Lummi Tribal Sewer and Water District provides water, sanitary and sewer infrastructure, and service to 5,000 Indian and non-Indian residents living within the external boundaries of the Lummi Indian Reservation. The District adheres to strict health and environmental standards, sets and collects necessary fees to support operations and facilities improvements, and, through sound management, reduced dependence on river withdrawals by 91% in the last year — all factors that contribute to the District’s credibility and effectiveness.

Native Nations
Resource Type

"Safe, Clean Waters". Honoring Nations: 2002 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2003. Report.


This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Eldena Bear Don't Walk and Rae Nell Vaughn: So What's So Important About Tribal Courts? (Q&A)

Native Nations Institute

In this short session, panelists Eldena Bear Don't Walk and Rae Nell Vaughn delve into further detail about the importance of tribal justice systems receiving adequate funding in order to administer justice effectively. Robert Yazzie, former Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, also offer his thoughts about the importance of Native nations consulting natural law and their own common law when creating new laws.

Resource Type

Bear Don't Walk, Eldena. "So What's So Important about Tribal Courts? (Q&A)" Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Q&A session.

Vaughn, Rae Nell. "So What's So Important about Tribal Courts? (Q&A)" Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Q&A session.

Robert Yazzie:

"May it please the court."

Eldena Bear Don't Walk:

"Justice Yazzie, you may proceed."

Robert Yazzie:

"I miss that -- when attorneys and practitioners approach coming to court and make their case. I really appreciate your presentation and you hit some of the high points why tribal code should be considered very important. I just want to let you know that my experience, the same way that these judges articulated what they had to go through was no different with mine. And I hear a relationship between the Navajo Nation courts and the Navajo Nation Council. We used to always say that Navajo codes is a stepchild, it's always a last priority when it comes to budget. So even then, we fought and fought and we had the same experience. The council delegates would come to me and say, ‘Can you do something with this case?' And I would say, ‘If I do something for you, you and I could be in trouble. And when I put my hand up to say, ‘I will do the best to administer the law under Navajo law,' it means I have to adhere to the ethical considerations and I can't ask the council for favoritism, neither can the council ask for favoritism of me. That's a responsibility that you and I have. And I don't want you to get in trouble and I don't want to be in trouble, that's bad stuff.' So those who have experienced, have gone through...and even meeting with all the judges on a national level, we heard about the attitude. ‘The judges don't know anything and the judges are dumb and stupid. Their laws are unfair.' I think that kind of criticism, well, we took it as a positive note to say that we're going to do better. If the outside don't like it, if the Supreme Court of the United States, say they want to do us in, well, so be it.

I had a chance to Sandra Day O'Connor when she was an associate justice for the Supreme Court. And from Gallup to Window Rock, she told me, ‘Tell me everything there is to know about peacemaking,' and I did that. And upon our arrival, other prosecutors and some of the Navajo Nation attorneys, we gave what we [could], the best that we have, the best possible information. The last thing she said was, ‘Well, it's fine that you talk about tribal sovereignty, but isn't it about time that you seek help from the state?' That just kind of hit me that what she said was, no matter what we say about tribal court and tribal sovereignty, it really doesn't matter to the outside world. It's like, you think as a judge, they really don't give a damn and sometimes you just to get help, have that human emotional feeling speak to you. But now I'm at the point I say, ‘That's okay, as long as we can say to each other as Indian people, 'We can do it.'' We have a mind, we have ability to plan, we have ability to live. The life element is always a key concern of the elders and I'm sure your elders do the same thing. They always say, ‘Does this legal decision have life in it?' [Navajo language] and you'd like to say to them, ‘Yes, there is life in this decision.' And it's because they like to see resilience, they like to see good results, a real bad situation, no matter how bad it is, I think the judges always have to have a good play in it.

So all I'm saying is that, as I tell my students sometimes...I like to teach law; I like to teach young people, Indians. It doesn't matter who, Indian young people, get them groomed, get them orientated, introduce them and say, ‘This is white man's law, this is our law and there's credibility in this law, there's also credibility in this law.' Some people may say, ‘Well, as for legal issues, this white law has all the answers and your law doesn't.' Don't ever assume that that is the truth. Always think [that] there's always something because Indian people have survived through the worst scenarios, the worst chaos and we're still here. And if we take that attitude and say, ‘Well, there's nothing in terms of tribal law,' if we think that way, then so be it. But if we think, ‘There's no law,' there's going to be a law and that law is going to be ours. It's going to have a reflection upon how we think, our values, how we cherish life and that should be the foundation to our legal system. And I think that's what we're talking about, the tribal court and when we say tribal courts.

And the other thing that I tell my, emphasize with my students is that, ‘What if you wake up today and you found out you have no reservation, no tribal court, no tribal council, no land, then what?' And the reason why I ask the question is that, as Steve [Cornell] pointed out and was saying, you have the expertise as Indian people. And yes, the white people have theirs, but if you don't use yours, there's consequences meaning that if we don't see...if our relationship with the federal government is severed, then we would say, ‘What happened?' Some population in the mainstream who'd like to shut down tribal court, tribal council, shut down the reservation and they want all Indian people to be under one law, state law. So as much as you want to save us, as much as you want this understood you say, ‘Is that what we want?' If not, we've got to do our darnedest to hold on to what we have and we have it, we still have it. They say we don't speak the language. We still do. The wind still blows, the sun still comes up, the fire is still there, the water still runs, they have voices, they know our language and they are good mentors to us. That's what you call natural law as a basis for all Indian law. Thank you."

Ronald Trosper:

"Thank you. We have a question over here now."

Adam Geisler:

"Yes. I'm wondering if you could share a little insight on some of the financial challenges that your courts may face and specifically how those dollars relate to the overall structure of the court and personnel, because I think that's one thing we're finding in Southern California is that when you're giving to smaller tribes we have to form consortiums like inter-tribal court down there. And I'm just wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you sustain yourselves as a court without having your cops out there writing tickets all the time for frivolous things."

Eldena Bear Don't Walk:

"A cop would never write a ticket for something frivolous. So in the different court systems that I work in, the trial courts almost always get their money directly from the tribal general council. So there are ways to make your courts a little bit more sustainable in your fees. In every other court in America, every time you file a motion they charge you $20, maybe they charge you $75 and people say, ‘Oh, we don't want to charge our people.' Everybody's got to participate in the community and sometimes that's like saying, ‘We have to feed all of our people for free. We don't have to give them jobs.' Everybody has to be a part of it and you have to be creative with it, but a lot of tribes are using...they get their money out of the general fund, some of them get it directly from the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], other places get it from grants. And again, the problem you see with grant development is that, yeah, you can develop a great youth court on grant money, but how are you going to make that sustainable in the long term? And a lot of organizations now, for example, the Administration for Native Americans, when they do their program development, you have to explain how you're going to sustain that after the money is gone. So I don't think though...

Montana had an inter-tribal appellate court up into the late ‘80s where there were five or six Indian attorneys or attorneys who practiced Indian law who traveled from tribe to tribe doing their appellate work for them and it was financially very reasonable and accessible for tribes to use instead of trying to fund their own court systems. Washington has a very similar program for all of the little tiny Salish tribes over on the coast. Don't think that you have to have your own system to make it work. If you can work in a consortium, lots of tribes are working in consortiums. Consortiums can build power, they can build opportunity, they at least can give you the access to a tribal court system because that's what you want and then you can expand.

The money for tribal courts is tricky. It really depends on how your tribe is situated: if you want to do contract, if you want to do grant money, if your tribe is willing to just take it out of their general fund. The money for my court specifically comes out of the general fund and fortunately or unfortunately any money that we make -- and that means filing fees, transcription fees -- that isn't paid out goes back into the general fund so we don't keep it. We had a law conference this summer. Any money that we made went back into the general fund; it didn't come back into our account. So we run on a very small budget, the appellate court does. I know that our tribal courts run on limited budgets as well. I think that it is irresponsible to think that you're going to get all of the money you ever need for everything that you want.

And again, people need to learn to be creative. Everything is underfunded. The American government is underfunded, the United Nations is underfunded, your tribal court system is underfunded, your city court is underfunded so you're going to have to figure out how to make it work the best way you possibly can. Unfortunately too, we have not...we have developing jail systems; we just got a new jail. Other places have jails that I know are absolutely condemnable or have been condemned, but they're still using them for detention. Those are things that administrations have to make priorities. Your courtroom itself is not necessarily a reflection of everything, but your system is and it's important to make that outward appearance to people. So your jails, your courtrooms, all of those things reflect what the tribe values in its programs."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"I can expand a little as well concerning Choctaw structure of financial support from the government. Similar to my co-presenter we, as I stated earlier, at that point when I was operating the court it was a $3.5 million budget, 82 percent of that was tribal revenue. The rest was a combination of grants and other sources, but again it was sustainability. For example, Teen Court launched based on a grant and the tribe saw the success of the court, of the teen court forum and so they chose to go ahead and continue on with that. In regards to collections of filing fees and fines and things of that sort, we were not able to retain that. That ultimately went back into the general fund. The general fund in turn supported our security and our TSA-type support of going into the court. We were able to, under grant funding, to be able to build a new justice complex over seven years ago, I believe, and so we have the good fortune of having a state-of-the-art detention center. We've talked with other tribes about possibly utilizing our detention center to house their inmates who are currently being housed in county lock-up and having them transported down to Choctaw. So again, creatively, being creative into how you can operate your system.

Native Leaders: The Purpose and Challenge of Redefining Citizenship

Native Nations Institute

Several Native leaders share their thoughts on why their nations are deliberating potential changes to their citizenship criteria, and they discuss some of the many challenges that Native nations face in this complex area of governance. 


Beaulieu, Justin. "Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 1 (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Q&A session.

Hall, Chris. "Cultivating Constitutional Change at Crow Creek." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona and the Bush Foundation. Spearfish, South Dakota. April 25, 2013. Interview.

Harjo, Suzan Shown. "Five Decades of Fighting for Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 11, 2008. Interview.

Hill, Anthony. "Constitutional Reform on the Gila River Indian Community." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 4, 2013. Presentation.

Wesley, Angela. "Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 2 (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 4, 2013. Q&A session.

Suzan Harjo:

"We have our rights of selecting citizens, setting citizenship criteria saying who we are and who we aren't, who is not part of us. That is an act of sovereignty. Citizenship is an act of sovereignty."

Justin Beaulieu:

"I did a research paper about blood quantum too because it was important to me. And one of the things that I identified was that the only people or the only things that are really identified by how much of something they are is some animals and Native Americans. That’s the only thing. So if we’re going to categorize ourselves into a category with animals because that…it’s always kind of been about resources. The federal government didn’t want to be babysitting a bunch of Indians so they said, ‘We’re going to make…if you have a kid with a white person, they’re half,’ and then eventually we’re going to be extinct before we’re dead. So that was good to them. That was good for them, and if that’s what we want to continue, that’s going to be our legacy, I guess that’s our choice.”

Anthony Hill:

"In our constitution, the blood quantum is in there and I’m sure many of you have blood quantum requirements for your membership. Despite all…there was a great emphasis on changing the blood quantum or addressing the blood quantum, but because we were so busy looking at everything else, at the end of this nearly five-year project we didn’t even touch blood quantum. And that was a great failure on our part because the membership of a community is the most important thing. It is literally the lifeblood of a community and if you can’t decide on who should be in your community, you’re not going to have a community in the future. So that was a failure on our part because we didn’t address that issue because we were so busy addressing the crisis that we…the time we were living in." 

Chris Hall:

“I think for me, philosophically, the government is a small supportive entity within a nation. I think the citizenry is the one who outwardly people see as the nation and they should be the ones that are producing. They should be the ones that are exercising that leadership, that autonomy that says that we’re standing on our own two feet. We are capable and we desire our future to be sustainable and we’re not going to give that over to a government institution and we’re not going to give that over to any large umbrella corporation that may or may not support our desires as citizens and define us differently than we choose to be defined. So yeah, it really comes down to the individual’s impetus of making the announcement and the statement, ‘This is who I am, this is what I stand for and this is what I’m willing to do to be a part of this nation.’ And you need people standing beside you that are like-minded.” 

Angela Wesley: 

"When we do go away and have regular meetings with our people who live away from home, that’s always the question is, 'How is this going to impact me?' It really comes down to the constitution gives us the ability to make decisions for ourselves and like this lady was saying, just because people live…our people have been forced to live away from home doesn’t mean they’re not a part of us anymore. But the way our funding structure was from the Department of Indian Affairs is we were only allowed to spend money for people who were living at home. So that was something that we thought was really critical to us governing ourselves is that we would be able then to earn some wealth with resources that we were getting through treaty and to develop our economy so that we could start to provide services to people who live away from home, whether that be housing, health, education, increased medical services or dental services, that kind of thing but we always said that’s up to us. So many of those things were up to us, and that we had to continue to have those conversations as we built our wealth so that the money is being put to where the people want it to be. In terms of reaching out to people and just talking to them and why we would do that, what they can bring, part of what we wanted to do -- with 85 percent of our people living away from home -- is to start to build that vision in our people that just because you live away from home doesn’t mean that your future generations aren’t going to come back. Like you said, those educated people that are out there that can come with different skills to bring into our community when we start to be able to rebuild our economy so we really wanted not just to make the linkage but also to encourage people to start thinking about coming home. Our vision talks about strengthening our culture, strengthening our language, trying to reincorporate our traditional way of governing ourselves. People have to be home for us to do a lot of those things, so we wanted to start to build that notion in people’s minds that yes, it will be possible. We don’t have schooling right now, we don’t have health care right in our community, but let’s work so that we can so that we can start to attract some of those people to come back home and live comfortably in our territories. That’s part of our vision is that our people are able to live at home. And we recognize that not everybody is going to do that but we want more people to be able to do it."

Oren Lyons: Looking Toward the Seventh Generation

University of Arizona

Onondaga Chief and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons discusses the increasingly urgent issues of global warming and climate change and points to Indigenous peoples, their core values, and their reciprocal relationships to the natural world as sources of instruction for human beings to heed in order to combat those issues.

Resource Type

Lyons, Oren. "Looking Toward the Seventh Generation." American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 17, 2008. Presentation.

“A lot of thank you’s today and I especially want to thank my elders here who gave a blessing and reminded me as well as everybody else that we are connected to the earth very closely and we should be thankful for everything that we do. And that was our instructions: give thanks, be grateful. I want to thank the American Studies in…Indian Studies in Arizona for bringing me here, and Moran for taking the time, and Carol for trucking me about, and to David for taking care of me. And everybody’s been so great to me so I really appreciate it here. Obviously going to have to come back and spend more time. Right now, I’m just on the move, but the reason why is important. It’s my mission to bring news to you, maybe not good news, but news that you should know about and things that are going on in the world.

I come from Onondaga, upstate New York. I come from the Six Nations. English call us 'Six Nations,' French call us 'Iroquois,' and we ourselves are the 'Haudenosaunee.' Six Nations: the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Senecas and the Tuscarora. We’re an old alliance, we’re a confederation based on peace and we were gathered together some thousand years ago to cease fighting amongst ourselves and to become productive in creating and working with one another bringing peace. There was a spiritual being, messenger we called The Peacemaker. He has a name and the only time we ever use that name is when we raise leaders and we raise the [Native language], what you call 'chiefs,' then you’ll hear his name, but otherwise than that we call him The Peacemaker. And he came to five warring nations at that time and I won’t go through the epic story of his life and how he arrived at the Mohawks and how he went from one Nation to the other changing these fighting men to peace. So finally gathered on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where 50 men who formerly were enemies of one another and he laid down for us the whole constitution based on peace, the principle of peace and health, of equity, justice for the people and of unity, the power of the good minds and the power of the collective working together --one mind, one body, one heart, one spirit. And we’ve prospered under that instruction over these many years.

And today I represent in the council at Onondaga the Turtle Clan. I myself am a Wolf. I’ve been borrowed from the Wolfs to the Turtle -- temporarily, they said -- that was 41 years ago. You know how Indians are. So I’ve been there for a long time and the Onondaga Nation is the central fire of the Confederacy and we still maintain our structure of raising leaders and removing leaders. We’re probably the last of the traditional governments still in charge of land. And on our nation at Onondaga, we have no Bureau of Indian Affairs; we’re independent. I just traveled from Sweden to here. I traveled on a passport issued at Onondaga and we’ve been using that passport for now since 1977. It’s an instruction in maintaining your identity, who you are, the importance of being who you are and knowing who you are, instructing your children as to who you are. And most of that comes from songs like Mr. Lopez was singing -- that’s our instruction -- to the moon. We call that our grandmother. We have close relations with the earth. The earth’s our mother. You can’t get any closer than that. And from that point on, we’ve always been instructed by the Peacemaker on many things. When he gathered the people at Onondaga on the Onondaga Lake so many years ago and he instructed us how we would sit and what our clans would be and the authorities and the duties of the women and the men and the people and how this would continue and we’ve maintained that. Now in today’s times, we’re kind of alone in this traditional government, but traditions are everywhere. Every nation has kept their traditions, even though the BIA may be there and even though there may be government authorities, the traditions are still there, songs are still there, language is still there. And the information that’s in the language is what people are seeking today, some instruction.

And so I’ve been a runner for the Onondaga Nation and then the confederacy itself and at times for Indigenous people around the world. I was one of those people who were educated and they said, ‘Well, you can talk like they do. You get out there and you tell them.’ And so I get my instructions from the councils. I don’t have any great wealth of wisdom or so forth. I just understand what I’ve been instructed with and pass that on. Our leaders, our people, don’t like to get up in front of people and speak like that unless it’s our own people. Then they can really speak. So what is the nature of my discussion today, tonight? I had the good fortune to speak to your students here and some of your faculty this morning and it kind of outlined for me what I thought I should be talking about. First of all the introduction of ourselves: the Six Nations has about 18 communities, territories, both about half in Canada and half in the United States. We’re in three states. We’re in Wisconsin, New York and Oklahoma and two provinces in Canada, Quebec and Ontario. And then we have our people all over. Met an Onondaga girl tonight at dinner. She’s over here and her family was here and it was really nice to meet one of my young people here. So we travel far and wide and the message is always the same, it’s always about peace. But today some of the things that were told to us might be helpful here.

When The Peacemaker finally had laid out the whole system for us, he said, ‘Now I’m going to plant this great tree of peace, this great white pine.’ He said, ‘It’ll be the symbol for your Nation.’ He said, ‘It will have four white roots of truth for reaching the four cardinal directions of the earth.’ And he says, ‘Those people who have no place to go can follow the root back to its source and come under the protection of the great tree of peace.’ He said, among a lot of instructions to us as leaders, ‘Prepare yourself for the work that’s in front of you.’ He gave us a lot of instructions. Some of them I’ll tell you about. He said, ‘You as leaders will now have to have skin seven spans thick, seven spans like the bark of a tree,’ he said, ‘to withstand the abuse you’re going to take as leaders. And it won’t be from your enemies, it’s going to be from your family and your friends.’ He said, ‘And don’t wait for any thanks because that’ll be slow in coming.’ He said, ‘Move on.’ He said, ‘When people are angry and they speak in a loud voice, you have to listen to what they’re saying because they’re saying something.’ He said, ‘Try to hear the message through the anger.’ And he said, ‘You cannot respond in kind. Listen. Hear what they’re saying.’ And he said, ‘When you sit and you council for the welfare of the people, think not of yourself nor of your family nor even your generation.’ He said, ‘Make your decisions on behalf of the seventh generation coming. Those faces looking up from the earth,’ he said, ‘layer upon layer waiting their time.’ He said, ‘Defend them, protect them, they’re helpless, they’re in your hands. That’s your duty, your responsibility. You do that, you yourself will have peace.’

So he told us to look ahead. It was an instruction of responsibility of what we are supposed to do. So because I stand here as a representative of our Nation, still carrying the titles, seven generations ago someone was looking out for me or else I wouldn’t be here. So each one of us are any seventh generation and ahead of us are our responsibilities. And we have to take that seriously if they are to have a good life like ours. Our people have gone through a lot of pain and a lot of misery. We’ve suffered removals, genocide, yet we’re still here today. I heard the song and I knew we were still here and everywhere you go you’ll hear those songs. So today as a human being, as a species, I don’t think we have time for being Red or being Black or being White or being Yellow or Brown. I don’t think we have time for that anymore. We have to work together. We have to put aside all of that racism that’s been so destructive, continues. We just don’t have time for that. There’s changes coming and they’re close at hand and very soon we’re going to have to gather ourselves together around the world, and mobilize in our own defense, for our own survival, as a human species. We won’t have time for wars. We’ll need all the money that’s being spent on arms for defense of ourselves and protection of all of nature.

One time, long ago, sitting in the long house when we were having one of our ceremonies, Thanksgiving, we had a visitor who came from the north. He was a Mohawk and they asked him to sing and he was singing the [Native language], the Great Feather Dance. I couldn’t understand Mohawk, but I understood some of the words and then he spoke about my family, [Native word], the Wolf, and I said, ‘What is he saying?’ Because as they sang this Great Feather Dance, there’s a preamble where the beat is slow and they sang and they talk about a lot of things before the dance starts. This was all slow. In our Longhouse, the men are on one side of the house and the women on the other side of the house. So I went down to my grandmother who was sitting there and I said, ‘Gram, what is that man saying?’ And she says, ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘it’s an old song.’ She said, ‘I haven’t heard that in a long time.’ I said, ‘He’s talking about the wolf.’ She said, ‘Yes, he is.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘he’s talking about the road to the Creator and how beautiful it is and how we should all be walking in that direction and see the strawberries on the side of the road, the path that we’re taking.” The ‘Good Red Road’ they call it, the ‘Good Road.’ And she said, ‘What he’s saying is that on the side in a path like ours, walking beside us is a wolf, both going in the same direction.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean?’ She said, ‘Don’t know. It’s always been a mystery.’

I ponder that a lot of times and I think that he is the representative for the animal world, the spiritual way. And he’s my family, so I’m wondering what does that mean? And I think that he’s like a, well, our uncle maybe. And that whatever happens to the Wolf is going to happen to us. I think that’s what he is. He represents the earth itself and all the life on it. So when you look about and you see what’s going on today and how they’re treating the Wolf, it makes you think that we have to do better, we have to understand. Our nations, they do know about relationship and that’s what it is, it’s a relationship. Our Lakota friends and relatives they say, at the end of their prayer, ‘All our relations…all of our relations,’ and what they mean is literally all life. And when The Peacemaker was instructing the leaders so long ago, he said, ‘Now into your hands I am placing the responsibility for all life in this world.’ And he meant all the trees and all the fish and all the animals and all the medicine and all the water and everything there is, all life, and that’s a responsibility that has kept us here all these years. That’s how we’ve survived. He said, ‘Give thanks, be thankful for what you have.’ And so I see that our nations, the Indian nations, have created great ceremonies of thanksgiving, some that last for days, of thanksgiving and connection with your relatives. And I think that’s what people have to do now in the world. They have to recognize that they are not independent, that they’re just a part of life and you can’t remove all the animals or cut all the trees or catch all the fish without consequence. And so here we are, today’s times facing the consequence of our lost relationship and our lost responsibility.

When we raise leaders in the Longhouse, the old style, what they call the great condolence, it’s a long day. We go through all the laws, all the instructions, instructions to the leaders, instructions to the clan mothers, to the faith keepers, to the chiefs, and then instructions to the people. And it’s the longest instruction when it comes to the people. The people receive the most instruction because they have the most work to do. Leaders are there to help guide you, to be responsible, to initiate positions but the people are the ones that do the work, they’re the ones that have to be the nation. In our language, we don’t have a word for 'warrior.' That’s an English word and it comes from Europe and they were fighting over there. I’ve been traveling over there and I looked at their history, centuries and centuries of fighting. There’s great battlements over there, there’s castles, there’s amazing instruments of war. In Oslo, Norway, there’s a battlement and it starts way back somewhere around the 10th century and each year they made it bigger and bigger and soon it was big enough to hold horses and soon it was big enough to hold battalions of men and it just got bigger and bigger. And I looked on the walls and I saw the armaments and the shields, the axes, the battle axes and they were chipped and broken, heavy swords were nicked and the shields were sliced. And I said, ‘These people fight. These people fight hard.’ I said, ‘It must be hard to be that kind of a life where all you do is fight from one generation to the next.’ We call our men '[Native language].' '[Native language]' means ‘those men without titles who carry the bones of their ancestors on their backs.’ That’s what we call our men, not warrior, '[Native language],' responsible beings, strong men, strong. And they were [strong] or else we wouldn’t be here. And the women right there with them, strong women. Strong families, good instruction, close relations, carried us for a long time until we run across technology of war, weapons and guns, powder.

I won’t go through all that, but all that’s in our history, all that’s in the past and here it is today. And interesting that I’m standing here representative of the Haudenosaunee talking to you about peace and how do you get peace and how do you find peace. You find it by being thankful for what you have and you find it for being grateful for what you have and being in defense of what you have and being closely related to the life that sustains us. We’ve become so independent from the earth itself that we think we are independent and that’s brought us to this point here where we are. Now we’re about to see what the real authority is and how inconsequential we are. We have to work together now. We have to put aside all of this and we have to raise leaders about peace. We have to raise leaders who are going to look out for the people, who are going to look out for the earth and for the lands and the waters. The cod fishing up here off the east banks of the United States is broken; cod is broken. Cod that were once five feet long, hundreds of pounds, down to one and two pounds, fishing them right off the bottom. Can’t fish the cod anymore. Herring, we’re losing the herring. We’re polluting the oceans themselves. We’re polluting the earth itself. We’re leaving a legacy for our children which is really destructive. The high incidents of asthma in children in the east is amazing now, all the kids got asthma and that comes from bad air, that comes from pollution.

And so the instructions that our people had a long time ago still reverberate, long-term thinking, decision making, long-term thinking and you come across the discussion today about bottom lines. What is a bottom line? That’s an economic term, it means the bottom line. Is it a profit or is it a loss? It’s an economic term, that’s what bottom line means. Somebody asked me one time, they said, ‘Well, what’s your bottom line? Everybody’s got a bottom line.’ It caught me a little off guard. I said, ‘Gee, I never thought about that. What is our bottom line?’ And I thought about it awhile. I said, ‘You know, we don’t have a bottom line.’ He says, ‘Everybody’s got a bottom line.’ I said, ‘No, no, no.’ I said, ‘We don’t have a bottom line.’ I said, ‘We live in a cycle, a circle.’ I said, ‘We just go around and around. There’s no bottom line.’ He didn’t have an answer to that, but that in fact is the way it is. Our ceremonies go around the lunar clock, we reach the end it starts over again.

I was talking to the Mayans, our brothers down there in Central America, and I was saying to them, ‘Well, you guys have a calendar that’s coming to an end in 2012.’ ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘that’s true.’ I said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen when the calendar comes to an end?’ ‘Well,’ they said, ‘these are 5,000-year calendars so we’ll just start another one.’ Yeah, they made me feel that way too, a little relief there. They did say, though, they said, ‘However,’ they said, ‘there will be a period of enlightenment.’ ‘Oh, what is that, enlightenment?’ ‘Well, you see something.’ I’m thinking, ‘A period of enlightenment, what could that be?’

Well, I thought of this man that was working very hard, decided he was going to take a day off and he was out there on Long Island. Good fishing out there off the Montauk Point in Long Island, big fish out there, come right around the corner. So he said, ‘Well, I’m going to go fishing today, the heck with everything.’ So he went, nice boat, way out there. Hot day. He said, ‘The water looks good. I think I’ll jump in the water, take a little swim.’ So he did. He’s swimming around there, a little ways away from the boat and then he sees this big fin coming towards him, big fin. ‘Oh, no,’ he said. He’s looking at the boat, looking at the fin figuring, ‘how much time have I got?’ Well, that’s a moment of enlightenment. So I hope it’s not going to be that way for us.

The other thing The Peacemaker said was, he said, ‘Never take hope from the people.’ It’s a good instruction. Never take hope from the people. He said, ‘Find a way, find a way.’ So this is hard today, find a way. I’ve been on this road now about global warming for some time and human rights. I’ve been working for our human rights and maybe that’s another section of discussion we should have. In September 2007, September 12th of 2007, Indigenous peoples of the world weren’t peoples. We were populations. In the vernacular of human rights and political discussions in the United Nations, we were always referred to as populations because populations don’t have human rights. Peoples have human rights and for 30 years we’ve been battling in this United Nations for that to be recognized that we are people. And I wondered and I wondered, ‘Why is it or how could it be that there is a declaration, the universal declaration on human rights, so should we not be included and why aren’t we people and why aren’t we included?' Because all those 30 years we’ve been at the U.N., we’ve been developing our own declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. They would not accept the term 'peoples.' They never used that term, we did. They didn’t. And 'peoples' with an 's'. 'People' is a generic term, it means everybody. But when you say 'peoples' with an 's', ah, now you’re talking about Tohono O’odham, you’re talking about Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Apaches, Senecas. You know there’s 561 Indian nations in this country today. That’s a lot of peoples and there were many, many more than that that are gone forever. Still there’s quite a few of us. Here we are. So 'peoples' with an 's', we were fighting to be recognized. Well, on September 13th, the next day, the United Nations adopted the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with an 's'. We made a huge step on the political scene of this world. Of course we always knew we were peoples but that’s a political term and highly charged. We learned that. When you start fussing around there with language, we learned about terminology, what tribes mean, what bands of Indians mean. That’s why we say we are nations. We are nations! The buffalos are nations. They are nations. The wolves are nations. That’s who we are. Yes! But they didn’t think so and we were subjugated.

And how is that, how can that be, how can you take a whole Indigenous people of the world and subjugate them to something less than human? Well, that was done in 1493 by the papal bulls of the Roman Catholic Church and they said in this directive, this bull, they said, this was the pope, ‘If there are no Christian nations in this new lands that you’ve discovered, then I declare those lands to be terra nullius, empty, empty lands,’ old Roman law, terra nullius, ‘Furthermore, if there are people there and they are not Christians, they do not have right of title to land. They have only the right of occupancy.’ And there, one year after the discovery of a whole hemisphere by fiat, it was taken by a declaration from a pope in Portugal. How about that? And we’ve been struggling ever since. We’ve been struggling to come out from underneath that. King of England said, ‘Well, I’m as good as a pope. I like that idea. Works for me.’ So he issued the same directive, 1496 to the Cabots, colonizing the new land. ‘By my authority the land is yours.’ Over here of course, here we were, happily planting. We were planting corn and they were planting flags. Big difference. It was pointed out today, this morning in our session, someone had noticed that just a few months ago that the Russians had taken a submarine up to the North Pole and planted a flag at the North Pole. Anybody remember that? Now why do you think they did that? It’s the Doctrine of Discovery. They took a lot of trouble to get a submarine and go to the bottom, find the North Pole and put the Russian flag there. They were claiming land. And if you remember, when the United States landed on the moon, what was the first thing they did? I think I saw a flag standing there wasn’t it? First thing. Doctrine of Discovery: it’s operational today. So you say, ‘How can that be?’

Well, it became installed in U.S. federal law in 1823 in Johnson vs. McIntosh and the issue was Indian land and Judge [John] Marshall, a very famous judge said, and it was not Indians fighting over lands, it was two white men fighting over Indian land, saying, ‘Boys, boys, boys. You’ve got it wrong,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry, that land doesn’t belong to the Indians,’ and recited the Doctrine of Discovery. And he went back and he quoted the King of England and the Cabots and installed that into U.S. federal law. 1955; Tee-hit-ton Indians made a land claim and they were defeated by the Doctrine of Discovery [in the] Supreme Court of the United States. Gitxsan Indians made a land claim, British Columbia 1991, not very long ago, and they lost the case to the Canadian government based on the Doctrine of Discovery. Last year, small town Sherrill, New York, suing the United Nation of New York for taxes, went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said, ‘Yes, Oneidas, you owe them money based on the Doctrine of Discovery.’ So you think that’s an old law? It’s operational today. That’s why we’re having all this hard time. So it’s racist and it’s also religious law, what you call…a country that proclaims that religion and state are separate. Not under those rules they’re not. How can that be?

Well, we’re studying that. We challenged the 'Holy C' because that’s the root of it all naturally and supported by all Christian nations because that became what they call the Law of Nations. They just made up a law and said, ‘Let’s all get in on it,’ so we lost our land. And if you go to court, you’re going to wind up right there. So there can’t be any justice in the court for us. So the paradigms have to change. When people realize that things are so bad and you understand what’s right and what’s wrong, then you have to change the paradigm itself. Common usage, well, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. So we’re challenging now the Holy C and we did have a meeting. I gave a strong position on treaties and the Doctrine of Discovery last year at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations and 10 minutes after the Holy C came up to us and said, ‘We have to have a meeting,’ because they have a seat at the United Nations. I don’t know why, but the Roman Catholic Church has a seat there. And they said, ‘We’ve got to have a meeting.’ So we said, ‘Fine. Fine. 500 years, about time isn’t it?’ So we went upstairs and we met with their leaders, the bishop, very well versed and he had his lawyers with him and he said, ‘What is it that you want?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to do something about this Doctrine of Discovery because it’s causing us great pain in the courts today, right now.’ He said, ‘Well, we don’t…we’ve disavowed that many times.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. You’re going to have to do something better, more profound.’ And he said, ‘What would that be?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it would be good if your pope confessed to the Indians and Indigenous people that he was wrong, that the Church was wrong; a confession from the pope.’ I said, ‘You people believe in that confession pretty much, don’t you? Good for the soul they say. How about that?’ ‘Well, there’s got to be a better way,’ they said.

So we are in discussion with them. They did write a letter back but in the meantime we’ve talked to Pace University and they have agreed to do a moot court on the Doctrine of Discovery so we’re going to vet this issue. Right now they’re preparing a position to be made at the United Nations in Barcelona, Spain, this fall on the issue of the Doctrine of Discovery. And I would like to see a hearing held in every one of those Christian nations; France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden. There’s your Christian nations and every one of them should be taught their own history because they don’t know about it, American people don’t know about it but the governments do, they know. So the battle is on. Be that as it may, and we will strive on, but I think before we see the result of that we’re going to be engulfed in global warming and it’s going to take our attention off of everything else except what we’re going to face as humanity.

I was working with a group called the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival. Through the ‘80s, ‘90s we were meeting on that issue [global warming] and there were very luminous individuals there like Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Al Gore. Al Gore was talking back then. He was saying, ‘Hey, problem here.’ And we met and we met [in] Moscow hosted by President [Mikhail] Gorbachev, who’s a great environmentalist by the way, knows what he’s talking about. In 1991, we said, ‘Well, how long are we going to meet here? We’re going to meet, just meet, meet, meet and we don’t come to a conclusion, let’s get to a conclusion.’ So in Tokyo, we came to a conclusion and it was four words. After all these meetings, all these years, we came down to four words: 'value change for survival.' If you don’t change your values that are running this world right now, you’re not going to survive. You can’t run on the values you’re running on right now. You’re going to have to change it. You’re going to have to look to the Indians for that change. Thanksgiving, sharing. You’re going to have to share. Not accrue; share everything, big time. We’ve got a chance. We’ve got a chance. Just the fact that you’re all here. If you’re going to wait for leaders to lead you, see you on the other side. You have to do it yourself. You’ve got to do the leading. You have to step forward and you’ve got to speak up in defense of your families and your lives in the future. You don’t have time. Things are just going to get worse. Talk to the Inuits or the hunters up in Alaska they’ll tell you, ’Whoo hoo, it’s bad up here. Dogs won’t go out on the ice. Hunters don’t know whether they’re going to come back.’ They’ve got to go. They’re subsistence hunters. They’ve got to go but whether they come back is always a question now. They say the same thing in Greenland, same thing in Nunavut. It’s really…you can see the change up in the Arctic Circle better than any other place because it’s really moving at a very fast pace and it’s accelerating.

Now, this is the other thing that you have to keep in mind. The process that we’re engulfed in is a 'compound' action and if you ask what a compound is, compound is what Professor Einstein said was the most powerful law of the universe, a compound. We have two compounds going on right now. One is the ice melt and the other is human population. When I was 20 years old in 1950, there were 2.5 billion people in the world. Here we are 58 years later and there’s 6.7 billion people in the world. That’s a compound, unsustainable and growing as we stand. Every four days there’s another million people born. Did you know that, every four days? That means food, water, shelter and land for every one of those individuals. We’re pressing the caring capacity right now. That’s a reality. It’s hard news, but you’ve got to hear it. And so what do we do? Ah, that’s the question. So you do, you know what you do, you gather your people in a circle, your families, your community and you say to each other, ‘All right, let’s have a meeting here. Let’s have a meeting and let’s decide what we’re going to do.’ And you will, you will decide and you will find a way when you sit and talk to each other like that because that’s how we always used to do. The people will decide. So the fate of our own lives and of the future is in our hands, no one else’s and it doesn’t do me or anybody else any good to say, ‘Well, I told you so.’ That doesn’t mean anything. But mobilization, yes, and this country, the United States has the greatest possibility for change than any other country in the world. We use one quarter of the world’s resources. We’re less than six percent of the population of the world and we use one quarter of the world’s resources. Well, just our change will help a great deal. But that’s the values. You have to make up your mind.

In our meetings overseas talking about energy, a big issue water and energy, because water’s life, water’s food, energy. Well, for so long we were just level -- if you notice, you see the graphs -- for millions of years here we are, human beings just going along like this. And then suddenly about the beginning of the Industrial Revolution they called it, the graphs changed and they start going this way. They start climbing about 1850; both the population and…they’re just together. So what does that mean? It means at one time we were living by the energy of the sun for one day and we could only use one day’s energy. We couldn’t save it, couldn’t store it, there was no electricity, you had to work with the sun and we did. That’s how we planted, that’s how we harvested. We worked with the sun, one day at a time so we couldn’t exceed, there was no way. Well, when we discovered electricity, ooh, things changed. Now there was refrigeration, now there was storage, now there was energy storage and the more energy we made the more we used and if we make more energy today we’ll use more. Why? Because that’s our values; so we have to change our values then. Can we do it? Well, I say yes but that’s really your answer, not mine.

I mean we live at Onondaga, eh, we’re like you guys. We’re pretty close, the same kind of lifestyle but we do keep our ceremonies and we do know who we are and we do give thanks and I think that’s what you’re going to have to do. You’re going to have to find your ceremonies again, you’re going to have to find a way to give thanks, to get your relationship back, to understand how close you’re related to the trees that you’re cutting down, your grandfathers. There’s renewable if you know how to do things, if you’re judicious. Old Indians used to have a game; it was a game everybody played. And you’d be traveling back in the old days and make a camp beside a stream somewhere, river, good place to spend the night, you’d make a camp. Then the next day you would leave but before you left you would put back every leaf, every twig so that the next person coming along would have to look and look and look to see whether somebody was there. It was a game. It was a game about being thankful. It was a way to understand how to keep things so they wouldn’t even know you were there. What a good game. What a peaceful way to deal with Mother Earth. That was our style.

So we have to think about things like that. We have to work with one another, we have to be much more friendly than we always were and we have to share. That’s the biggest issue, share. It goes against the grain of private property, goes against the grain of capitalism, but that’s brought us to where we are today. So if you want to hang onto that, there’s consequence. Our options are fewer and fewer every day. Every day we don’t do something we lose a day. We’re approaching the point of no return when no matter what we do will not matter at all ever. We turn our fate over to the great systems of this earth who will regulate, who’ll regulate our population, will regulate the temperature of the earth and we will be involved there as a consequence. So this is what I’m telling you and I’m not an alarmist, but I have been running this road for a while now and I think people have to know the truth and this administration that’s presently in control has been really negligent about giving the truth of the situation of the earth itself because it interferes with business. Well, Telberg, they said, ‘Business as usual is over. You can’t do business as usual, you just can’t.’ And it’s going to be cooperation rather than competition. You’re going to cooperate. If you’re going to survive it’s going to be cooperation rather than competition. It goes against the grain of this great industrial state here but nevertheless it’s a reality: share, divest, share.

You’re going to have to deal with Africa. You’re going to have to look after Africa. What happens to Africa happens to us. You have to feed people where they live, you have to provide for them, otherwise they’re here. They’ll go where the water is; they’ll go where the food is. So great migrations pushed by circumstance is what we’re looking at. Anyway, I think that we have maybe another Katrina, the fires that you’ve been enduring here, they’re not going to go away, they’re just going to get worse. Fires are here, floods, wind, grandfather. We call them grandfathers, soft winds, but they’re powerful; they’re coming. And let’s hope we have foresight and I say let’s hope we have the will, the fortitude to take on the responsibility of value change for survival. We have to inspect ourselves, every one of us, myself included and we’ve just got to do better. We have to enlighten ourselves, we have to learn, we have to understand what is coming, then you can deal with it. We’re always instructed, ‘Don’t put your head down, never put your head down, keep your head up and keep your eyes open and look and see. Always keep your head up.’ That’s where we are right now. There’s something in the wind, we know that, so we have to find out specifically what it is.

So in that regard, I’ll be a little practical here, I’ve been…I use these books myself and, let me see, here’s one, 2008, called the State of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy. Good ideas in there; practical approach to reality. You can find this book. It’s only about $20. It’s the 25th anniversary of the World Watch Institute and they have a huge science section and they’ve been collecting this information and every year they just add more on so they’re right up to date. Good book to educate yourself. It’s available for $20; you can spare that.

Here’s another one. Plan B, what’s that tell you? Plan B, we’re already in Plan B. Lester Brown. Okay, this is this year. Oh, man, this guy’s got it down. You get through this thing you’ll know what they’re talking about. But he doesn’t leave you without hope. He gives a lot of direction, a lot of ways to move and what to do so you’ve got to keep your head up and you’ve got to move and you’ve got to take…we don’t have time, time’s a factor now in everything really.

Okay. Let’s see what else we’ve got here. Oh, here’s one. Pagans in the Promised Land: Doctrine of Discovery. This is the hottest one. It’s just come out. You can get it on Amazon. Pagans in the Promised Land, this is the Doctrine of Discovery and this really discusses laws and all of the information here. Steve Newcomb. A young man came to us, elder circle 1991 carrying stuff under his arm saying, ‘Hey, you guys got to see what I got here.’ And that’s when we found out about the Doctrine of Discovery. Now it’s…we’re in consultation.

Here’s one: Voices of Indigenous People. This is the first statements that we made at the U.N. [in] 1993, the first time we addressed the United Nations. 1972, I was with a group of people who were trying to get to the United Nations and they wouldn’t let us across the street. We couldn’t go across the street. There was a phalanx of police and we had to be on this side of the street looking at the U.N. building, 1972. 1993, I was the first one to address the general assembly on the dais of the U.N. So the progress, hard fought progress to get there. But these are the words of the leaders of Indigenous people around the world, pretty much the same today as when they were done. But what’s good about this book here is it has the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its pure form. Now the one that’s passed has been modified. We lost traction here and there but we did keep our main principle but we did lose some. But the original is right here in this book. So some day maybe you’ve got the time to see what that is.

Here’s another one. It’s written by Lindsey G. Robertson called Conquest by Law. This is again the Doctrine of Discovery. And here was a guy that was just curious about it. He got some names and he said, ‘Gee, I ought to follow what happened to these people.’ And he found out that the law firm that was fighting this case had all of these papers and that they put it in a big trunk, it was going to go to England. So he found the family in Ohio and he said, ‘Can I find out where you sent those…that trunk of papers on the Doctrine of Discovery, Johnson vs. McIntosh?’ They said, ‘Well, it never went. It’s downstairs in the cellar.’ So that’s what this book is. So stuff like that, stuff we didn’t have before we do now and things have got to change and fairness to everybody. I’m going to leave some of this stuff with the University.

Do you know that in March of this year that the State of Arizona supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a state? Did you know that? That’s a great event, first state in the Union to do that. I have it right here. I was here or up there in…so you can be proud. Here’s the event that’s in here. It also has a complete description of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it is now. So I’m going to leave that here, people can copy [it] and you can look at statements made.

What else here? I know we have somewhere…oh, here we are. Statement: The ice is melting in the north. This was a statement that was given by the Indigenous people at the United Nations in the year 2000, eight years ago we said, ‘The ice is melting.’ Now they didn’t listen to us then but here we are halfway there but we’ve still got time. So I’ll leave this with you as well. So you’ll have something to work with and maybe it’ll be the great State of Arizona that changes everything, who knows and why not? You’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got a lot of Indigenous people here, you’ve got a lot of Indian nations here still hanging in there.

So I think that’s enough for tonight, don’t you? I mean I don’t know what you were expecting. But we’re all in it together. There’s one river of life, we’re in our canoe, you’re in your boat, we’re on the same river. What happens to one happens to the other. So it’s in our hands; that’s the end of my message, I think. It’s up to us to organize. They’re doing it in Europe, big time so you’re not going to be alone. You’re not going to be alone. They’re looking for allies. We’re looking for allies. So as a runner from the Haudenosaunee, well, I’m walking now, I don’t run much anymore but I bring you this message as a fellow human being and as a man with a mission and I think it’s a good fight. I think it’s a good fight and I like a good fight. Let’s do it, let’s get on…let’s get on with it. Educate yourself. I’m leaving some stuff here and organize, sit in the circle, talk. Don’t just do something; make sure it’s a good move. Talk it over, work together because unity…

When The Peacemaker brought the five nations together he took an arrow and he broke the arrow, then he took five arrows for the five nations and he took the sinew of the deer and he bound those arrows together, he bound them together hard and then he said, ‘Here is your strength, to be united, one mind, one body, one heart, one spirit, your strength.’ We’re brothers and sisters, we can change blood. That’s how close we are.

Take your time, take your reflections and think about it and ponder it and talk and talk and work your way careful into a good move, strong move. Tell all your relations.” 

Greg Cajete: Indigenous Paradigm: Building Sustainable Communities

University of Arizona's Department of Language, Reading, and Culture

Greg Cajete, Director of Native American Studies at the University of Mexico, shares his more than three decades of work and research on Indigenous epistemologies for human and ecological sustainability, and discusses the need for scholars, academic institutions, and others to fully embrace these time-tested epistemologies as effective tools for combatting major issues such as climate change and global warming.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Cajete, Greg. "Indigenous Paradigm: Building Sustainable Communities." Department of Language, Reading and Culture, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 23, 2007. Presentation.

“Thank you, Candace and thank you Native students here at the University of Arizona for inviting me once again to give a presentation to your group and also to this group. As we say in my language [Tewa language], ‘Be with life, see that is the way it is.’ And I use this greeting, this way of opening my presentation today to sort of highlight, I guess, what I’m going to say to you and what I’m going to present to you in the context of this presentation. A lot of the work that I’ve been doing really within the last six years has been really around the notion of how do we develop a place for Indigenous thought, perspective, understandings within mainstream education. So hence, my role and my taking up the challenge of being the Director of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico and actually attempting, not only with myself but also with some colleagues, to introduce in a kind of basic way this paradigm, these thoughts, these ideas into a Native/Western-based Native studies program.

So you can see that part of this has to also be about creating space and place within the academy, within the western academy for the thoughts and the ideas and the diversity of thought and idea that Native people have and have always had and have always brought to universities such as the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico. And so my work today really is revolving around partly being an administrator. And all of those of you who have ever been an administrator know what that means. It really means lots and lots of time and meetings and working with political entities and coming forward and doing your presentations in hope of getting some money from some source to continue your program. The other part of it is internal work, which really requires you working with a variety of entities, particularly students and other faculty members to create a kind of openness first of all and secondly a kind of mechanism that allows you to begin to, in a sense, bring forward some of the ideas that are a part of what I call the Indigenous paradigm. And I’ve been working on this work actually for about 33 years now. It’s going to be 33 years that I’ve been ‘in the trenches’ as we say, a teacher starting really at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the high school science teacher and also the basketball coach and evolving into with the Institute into their college program, becoming the Dean of the Center for Research and Cultural Exchange there at the Institute and then also being the Chair of their Cultural Studies program before moving to the University of New Mexico 11 years ago now.

Part of my reason for taking on the leadership of the Native Studies program at the University of New Mexico is I felt that it was a time and a proper time to bring forward some of the ideas and perspectives that I had been working on as a cultural educator, as a Native educator within the secondary ranks and also within tribal college, as was the case with the IAIA [Institute of American Indian Arts] and bringing that into a university setting. And it’s not been without its challenges, it’s not been without much, much work but I think it’s becoming a point or a place where at least at the University of New Mexico where at least the Indigenous ideas and perspectives are becoming a part of the regular dialogue and discussion among students and Native faculty who are at the University of New Mexico. So the next stage of that is to make it a part of the dialogue of the University as a whole, which I think is probably going to be happening soon.

So my presentation today really is about what I would consider kind of my new work although it’s actually old work. It’s actually taking up some of the ideas and perspectives that I wrote in my first book Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education, in which I sort of began to take a look at what was indeed Indigenous education, what were its sources, what kinds of components did it have, what is the epistemology if you will of Indigenous education and how can we use it as a foundation to begin to create new curriculum from and in a sense to engender a kind of process of thinking that would allow the Indigenous perspective to have a place within mainstream education. And so Look to the Mountain is about philosophy, it’s about epistemology, it’s about a lot of things that deal with what I would consider foundational, philosophical, epistemological understandings that Indigenous people share not only here in the United States but actually worldwide with regard to language, with regard to community, with regard to understandings and relationships to environments in which they live, with regard to the arts and with regard to spirituality and with this whole notion of education.

And that then led to another book that I wrote, which is Native Science from a Native American Perspective which outlines some of the kinds of content that I began to use in a curriculum that I developed at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe those 33 years, beginning those 33 years ago. And in Native Science, what I talk about really is the Native ecological mind if you will, the perspectives and understandings that Native people have and have developed a knowledge base around that has sustained them through many generations within the context of the communities and the places in which they have lived. So the thoughts and ideas of Native Science are really about looking at and trying to understand and trying to bring forward some of those foundational ideas, those essential ideas into a dialogue and into a kind of context of education for the 21st century. And what I talk about in Native Science is really the understandings that Indigenous people have about their relationship not only to each other but to the world around them and especially to the cosmos. And so while I use primarily examples from Native communities in the United States and a few from Mexico and Canada, a lot of the thoughts and ideas and perspectives and orientations actually could be utilized for tribal peoples from Africa, from Asia, from Australia, from New Zealand and so on. [Okay. That makes a difference, doesn’t it?] So given that, given that understanding, what I want to do is give you some thoughts and perspectives related to that but let me finish these books up first.

After writing Native Science, I realized that a lot of people were beginning to talk about how to create curriculum that integrated or introduced Native content into the teaching of science and then I thought, ‘Didn’t I write something about that a few years ago?’ So I didn’t actually write my book on Native science modeling until about 1999 and it actually is my dissertation in a kind of synopsized form and sort of represents the idea, the concept and also a model that I had developed and utilized at the Institute of American Indian Arts. And so the book actually was a book about probably that I should’ve written first. Because the usual thing is that you do your dissertation and then you try to find a publisher and then you try to publish that. In those days, in 1986, you were hard pressed to find a publisher that even understood what you were talking about in the context of this kind of culturally based education perspective. So in those days it actually was pretty difficult so it wasn’t until 1999 that I actually got Igniting the Sparkle written into a book form. So for those of you that are educators, this is the book that’s kind of the recipe book that if you’re looking for some thoughts and ideas about how do you actually take these ideas of culturally responsive science and make them real for Native students in the classroom, this would be the book for you.

I don’t have a copy of my other book which is called A People’s Ecology, which is actually more along the lines of the presentation I’m going to give you today, but it’s called A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living and that’s published by, I believe the publisher is Clear Light Publisher for that. So hopefully you’ll also take a look at that. My last book, which actually did not get distributed very easily because my publisher, Kivaki Press, actually went out of business so I’m left with having to move this book around, but it’s called Spirit of the Game: An Indigenous Wellspring in which I take ideas and perspectives of Native games and begin to build a pedagogy of curriculum around them. And so what I find myself doing these days is actually beginning to create what I’m hoping is a kind of series of books and representations of the Indigenous thought and the Indigenous paradigm within these various kinds of contexts of education and hoping that people such as yourselves, students such as yourselves will take the challenge to sort of bring forward those ideas in your own ways, in your own perspective, in ways that make sense for you within the communities and schools that you teach in and to make them real once again within the context of Native life and Native education in the 21st century.

So with that I want to invite you to this presentation, "Indigenous Paradigm: Building Sustainable Communities," because what I’ve notice in all these years of working in this field is that there’s a kind of paradigm that’s beginning to form among Indigenous people, Indigenous scholars. And that paradigm is a paradigm that is both ancient and also new in many respects in the sense that it’s bringing forward some of the ideas and the principles and the understandings and the histories that Native people have always had and making them real in the 21st century. And so that evolving paradigm is something that Indigenous scholars around the world are participating in in a variety of different kinds of contexts and in a sense creating this kind of body of work and if you will in academic circles a kind of theoretical base essentially that Indigenous people are beginning to form that they can now begin to work from in a variety of different kinds of context; education, health, economics, governance and sustaining Indigenous communities ecologically and socially, culturally and spiritually and otherwise.

So the presentation today talks about that, that perspective, that understanding and I want to sort of take you through really for me it’s a kind of going back to some earlier thoughts and ideas, bringing them forward and working with them. So it’s a creative process on the part of myself as a scholar as I do this. But recreating Indigenous education is really for me one of the most important kinds of undertakings if you will in the sense that what we’re attempting to do is really begin to take a look at teaching and learning, which is transformative and anticipates change and innovation within the context of Native communities, Native education and more particularly within the minds of Native students. As I say there, ‘Indigenous education can integrate and apply principles of sustainability along with appropriate traditional environmental knowledge.’

The whole notion of sustainability is really important I think to understand today and one of the reasons why I’ve taken up this work again reminding you that part of my training is actually as a field biologist and that I’ve been following kind of the environmental crisis for 33-plus years. And the understandings we have now for instance with regard to global climate change, to the evolving environmental crisis, these kinds of considerations and understandings and the indicators that this was happening within the global living sphere that we call Mother Earth is and was there 33 years ago. The footprints, the evidence was beginning to evolve, we began to see the melting of certain glacier formations, especially in the Andes and beginning to see changes in climate and environment. A lot of this was happening 33 years ago and I remember as an undergraduate biology student studying global climate change and some of the possibilities that were being considered as ramifications of that kind of change.

So now we find ourselves in the year 2007 with no more excuses and literally with the evidence in such overwhelming amounts that global climate change has been happening, is happening, that human beings are largely responsible for it and the kinds of societies that we have created, the focus on fossil fuels and also our lifestyles, all of these have contributed really to this mounting evolving crisis. What we find ourselves in as education institutions and also as educators is that we haven’t necessarily anticipated this kind of process, this kind of challenge and certainly our institutions in many ways are not prepared to teach students in ways that are necessary to begin to have a real understanding of how to address some of the issues and the problems that global climate change will begin to gradually bring to us. So we’re finding ourselves in the midst of having to change in terms of a society, in terms of the way that we view and understand education but not really knowing how to change in many ways and not really understanding the ways that we need to begin to think and rethink the process of education today.

So my thesis has been and continues to be that Indigenous societies have always had a form of education that in a very practical and very direct way ensured that communities remain sustainable through environmental change and also through environments and maintained also a kind of relationship with the natural world that ensured that sustainability was really a possibility. And I’m thinking and I’m saying essentially that in today’s society, we have to begin to revisit some of these older traditions of knowledge, of education, of ways of being in community in order for us to begin to understand what we need to do in order to in a sense become sustainable within our environments once again. It’s a huge challenge and I think we’re just at the very beginning of realizing how huge it is and it is going to have an impact on all of our educational institutions and the way that we view education as a whole.

So I’m saying essentially that Indigenous education forms a foundation for community renewal and revitalization. So for Native communities this is…there’s even more, an even larger imperative. In many ways in Native communities we’ve been torn and have a history with education that is less than positive and we’re really just beginning to move into a stage where we’re able to at least have access to higher education, we have access to professional kinds of positions in government, in economics but it’s just at the very beginning process. And as we move into that, there’s always been the question, ‘How much of myself, my tradition, my community do I bring with me as I move into this world, this world of western education?’ But for me Indigenous education is one of the foundations of this community renewal and revitalization and this particular slide I think represents for me that understanding because it is about a kind of relational thinking, a relational position that you take both individually and as a community that ensures a kind of process of reciprocity and mutual relationship that ensures survival over the long period of time.

We’ve heard this many times in many phrases, in many ways, in many linguistic forms that Indigenous people have, ‘We are all related, we are all related, we are all related.’ And that idea of Turtle Island, which has been used many times as an ecological metaphor, which in biological circles has…is associated with what we call the Gaia Hypothesis, the idea that the earth is this one gigantic living system and that we live within that living system, that we’re related within that living system. Things that we do as human beings does have an impact in that greater living system which we call the earth. And so those ideas and those concepts, while in Western biology many times it was debated if there was even such a thing as a global system such as Gaia, such as the Greeks called 'Gaia.' Well, I think climate change and the effects of climate change really does show that the whole earth is enveloped in this living, interactive system and it’s a living system and we’re a part of that living system. And of course if you study Indigenous traditions, Indigenous languages, Indigenous stories, you begin to see that theme played over and over and over again represented from numerous kinds of perspectives that we are all related.

And so those ideas, I think, have to become a part of the new epistemology, I think you would say, that begins to guide us as educators, as institutions, as communities, because the truth is that our survival may depend on it, ultimately that our survival as human communities in this biosphere earth depends on it. So given that challenge, what do you do, because if you’re training people for a paradigm of economic development that in a very short time will probably not exist, at least not in the way that people are being trained for that. If you’re training people for positions or community development concepts that in very short time may not be in vogue, it may be totally obsolete, what then do you have to fall back on from the standpoint of educational strategy? So this is why I’m saying that the ideas that Indigenous people have are important. Traditional and environmental knowledge can provide models and creative insights necessary to renew communities, revitalize human communities and economies.

I think also we have to begin to take a look at how and also as I say up there, a long and hard look at the current educational, economic and community development policies, planning and processes which may many times make us complicit with the status quo and so this is a debate that happens certainly within the institution and certainly it’s a debate that happens among my faculty and my students is being complicit with your own, in a sense, demise, in some cases as it’s sometimes referred to. But I think that more it has to do with the orientation or the paradigm that we work from and beginning to take a look at that paradigm seriously and really, really, really thinking about it in terms of how it allows us or doesn’t allow us to become the kinds of sustainable entities that we wish to become. And so that’s the reason for that idea of complicity.

For me, as Director of Native American Studies, the problem becomes, how do I develop new Native studies, programming, courses, perspectives that build on this evolving paradigm that’s based on sustainability? And so the new kinds of things that it brings forward have to do with new kinds of courses, new kinds of delivery of courses, new ways of looking at courses, new connections of courses and faculty and community. How do you make that connection work? Again, a new kind of Native studies education predicated on guiding Native students towards this vision of health, renewed and revitalized, sustainable and economically viable Indigenous communities. So a lot of what is happening today in Native contexts and circles has to do with this concept of building Native nations. So when you go around and you talk with tribal entities, tribal governance, tribal communities and individuals within those communities, the overwhelming focus and intention is how do we sustain our communities in the face of a variety of different kinds of challenges. How do we self-determine within a political environment that doesn’t necessarily recognize our legal and our communal kinds of mandates to self-determine or wish to self-determine? So these are the kinds of issues that then become a part of the discussion about what is nation building, Native nation building in the 21st century? It’s not just about economics, it’s not just about governance, it’s not just about education but what is underlying all of those understandings and to understand that you have to go back and ask yourself the questions, ‘Well, what did Indigenous societies found their understandings of all of these different entities on, why were they doing it, what was the underlying kind of motivation for having systems of governance and having economies and having these systems of education?’ Well, it’s probably…more than likely it was to sustain one’s self. It goes back to sustainability. It goes back to sustainability. And sustainability is connected to another philosophical idea that we call ‘being with life’ or ‘life perpetuating,’ perpetuating the life of a community. So I began this session with the words ‘Be with life or with life…,’ which is basically the same as saying, ‘sustain life,’ and it’s a term that’s used in many Indigenous settings to create a mindset, a way of looking at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

So understanding this, I think, is a very important piece of this puzzle that we’re putting together with regard to, ‘What is the Indigenous paradigm and how is it related to Indigenous sustainable community development?’ We know that…when you study Indigenous cultures around the world, we know that there are certain kinds of characteristics of Indigenous sustainable communities that come at you all the time, that sort of reflect in a variety of ways and part of it has to do with this focus or refocus or constant focus on some sort of ecological integrity. Meaning that what you do as a community in some ways or another comes right back to some sort of an ecological connection, ecological sustaining connection to the environment, to the places, to the plants, to the animals, to the world in which you live. And so this is a part of that Indigenous epistemology and part of it is really start from the premise that what you do has integrity and honors life-giving relationships.

So now translating that ecological integrity into an action kind of statement and so if you were to ask the question, ‘Well, how do we develop Indigenous sustainable communities, what are their characteristics, how do we emulate that?’ Well, start with the premise that what you do has integrity and honors life-giving relationship. So what does that mean, how do you teach for that, how do you reflect that in the way you create your institutions, your economies? A sustainable orientation: building a process, which sustains community, culture and place. If you hear Native people talk both historically and also in contemporary settings, what you’re hearing many times when they talk about their communities, when they talk about the places in which they live, that’s what they’re saying; building a process which sustains community, culture and places, that connection.

Also, vision, purpose, vision and purpose. See what you can do in the light of revitalization of community. There’s things that can happen both individually and collectively that in a sense revitalize, that bring life back to something within the community. So if you begin to educate for those kinds of ideas, those kinds of actions, those kinds of ways of being in the world once again, those will more than likely happen. So we have today things like community-based education, we have things like service learning, we have a variety of different kinds of ecological restoration projects going on in a variety of different contexts, which in an of their essence bring life back to something, they revitalize something. And so that vision and purpose, see what you can do in the light of revitalization of community becomes a very important, imperative. Because what you work with when you’re developing sustainable community is you’re working with a culture, community and its resources and you begin to see those within the context of this greater challenge, this greater impetus of creating and teaching for sustainable community.

We know -- and as Native peoples we have always had -- a kind of spiritual purpose that has been and continues to be a kind of foundational understanding that we carry with us in a variety of contexts of education. So spiritual purpose especially has a very important role in this process of revitalizing Indigenous community. So this idea of cultural integration: actions which orient or originate, rather, through spiritual agency that stems from connections to a cultural way of being. That idea of Indigenous spirituality, it also has a practical purpose and it always has had a practical purpose. And that was to keep in the minds of a community that what you’re doing not only has spiritual purpose but it goes right back to that process, that understanding of being with life, seeking life or in some ways revitalizing, to revive or to bring life back to something. And so it also includes respect for all. Actions stem from respect for and celebration of community. This idea of respect, mutual respect, respect not only for each other in communities but also respect for the land, its plants, its environments, its whole environment if you will. And then engaging participation of community, the community is both the medium and the beneficiary of activities.

So the idea of education being of a community base first and foremost in Indigenous thinking, in the Indigenous paradigm, becomes a very, very important component of what I would consider the new kind of Indigenous education, which is largely community-based, not university-based; big difference between university base and community base. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have community in universities because you can and you do all the time, we create communities in universities, and what we’ve tried to do at the University of New Mexico Native American Studies is we’ve tried to create an Indigenous learning community that parallels the communities that the students and the faculty do come from. But what I’m talking about here is really that true Indigenous education happens within and through and around and with the Indigenous communities that it’s meant to serve.

If you study Indigenous education around the world, you begin to find that what moves it is relationality, that it’s based on a relational philosophy that relationship becomes one of the key principles of how things happen, how things get learned within those communities, how things get related to literally. And so when you take a look at Indigenous cultures around the world, it becomes a kind of tour of relationality in all of its many faces, all of its many representations. And so when you teach for relationality, it’s a very different kind of mindset than teaching for let’s say independence or rather individualistic kinds of endeavors or individualism. When you teach for relationship, you’re actually teaching for an understanding of how best to not only create relationship but extend it, maintain it and make it the foundation of all the things that you do. And so building upon and extending relationships are essential, process of this develop. Restoring and extending the health of the community is also part of that process ‘cause relationships can be positive or negative, can be healthy or not so healthy so relationship also has two sides to it. And you have to understand that part of what we’re doing is trying to create and maintain and extend relationships that are life giving so all of those things become important. Initiative should generate…the initiative should generate dynamic and creative process, the idea that relationship takes work, that it’s not just something that happens but rather is something that you have to work for and you have to constantly nourish because it’s a living process in and of itself.

There’s this business of commitment to developing the necessary skills, commitment to community renewal and revitalization, commitment to mutual reciprocal action and transformative change, that idea of commitment to each other and communities. There’s also the characteristic of Indigenous sustainable education in which the focus is to educate for the recreation of cultural economies around an Indigenous paradigm, so when we begin to look at things like economic development in the context of Native communities and we’re taking a look at some of the kinds of issues and challenges of global climate change, the dwindling resources, a variety of different kinds of ecological issues, then you have to begin to look at what it is that can begin to help people recreate some of the cultural ecologies or the cultural kinds of economies that once were a part of their life and their livelihood. So this is one of the reasons why Native people today, especially those that have a land base and resource base, fight so tenaciously let’s say for their fishing rights, fight so tenaciously for their hunting rights, fight so tenaciously for their gathering rights, fight so tenaciously for their rights to be…to continue let’s say traditional, environmental and/or lumbering practices or agricultural practices. All of that is based on this sentiment you see and this understanding. So begin by learning the history and principles of your own Indigenous way of sustainability, explore ways to translate that into the present, research the practical ways to apply these Indigenous principles and knowledge basis. So this is some of the kind of work that you would do in the creation of and moving forward to this kind of paradigm, if you will, of education.

Basic, shared Indigenous principles include many things. It’s place-based, resourcefulness and industriousness, collaboration and cooperation, integrating difference in political organizations, alliances and confederation building, trade and exchange. These are things that Native people have always done in the context of the kinds of ways in which they’ve created their sustainable communities alongside other sustainable created communities by Indigenous people. So in other words, Indigenous people have been creating these communities all along, but they haven’t been creating them in isolation. They’ve been creating them in relationship to other Indigenous communities, other regions, other places. And so we have a history of this, this relationship.

So what are some of the challenges to Indigenous sustainability today? In other words, if we were to create Indigenous communities, what are some of the kinds of issues that we would face immediately in attempting to do that? Well, establishing political self-determination is one of the issues that we continue to work with and continue to have to in some ways defend and find ways to express. Decolonization and culturally responsive education; decolonization in the sense that it’s a kind of re-education process for us as Indigenous people to begin to take a look at some of our own complicity and some of the issues of colonization and trying to begin to not only understand that but to reverse that. And part of the ways that you reverse that is through culturally responsive education, beginning to take a look at that paradigm seriously, express it, maintain it, extend it.

Also taking a look at economic exploitation, diverse and competing ideologies in some of the political restructuring that happens in Native communities and happens as a result of federal Indian policy, that mitigate against communities creating themselves or recreating themselves as sustainable communities. Other issues include the very fact that we have individual diversities among Native peoples, identity redefinition, creating formal and informal institutions also become a part of the task of in a sense retooling ourselves and retooling our view of ourselves towards this Indigenous paradigm. Challenges also include the cultural, the social, the political and the spiritual fragmentation that all of us experience in communities and also in different kinds of situations of community building. Creation of formal and informal institutions, which advance sustainability: some universities, some colleges, some tribal colleges are beginning to do some of this kind of work but much work needs to be done because it does require new kinds of courses, new kinds of configuration of courses, in some cases even maybe new institutions that begin to look at this kind of advancement of sustainability. Challenges also include flowing with heterogeneity, complexity and differentiation. As modern people living in a modern society today, Indigenous people have been affected by all of these challenges of differentiation and changes of perspective and understanding. So we have to begin to look at that and see how that has affected us.

And then also in many cases it’s also a matter of political restructuring both internally and externally. But what do we have going for us? You can’t just leave it there and say, ‘Well, these are all the challenges, let’s just give up and forget about it.’ The fact is is that as Indigenous communities we do have resources that we can actually draw on now and these include things like our extended family, clans and tribes, which are still functional in many Native communities, which are organizations of people, related people. We do have still community in bits and pieces in places. We also have places and regions in which those communities are situated and which can be affected in a sustainable way. We have political, social, professional and trade organizations that can be mobilized in a variety of ways to support sustainability of communities. We have had always co-ops, federations and societies which have developed around the ideas of how to perpetuate in many cases community activities and even the corporation, which can be sustainable if founded on principles of sustainability. Now that’s a controversial statement that I make there because some would say you can’t teach corporations new tricks. Well, the corporation believe it or not is actually a kind of community. It’s a very, very self-centered community maybe -- focused on maybe just one goal -- but the fact is that it is a community. Corporations function as communal entities and so beginning to take a look at what is the sustainable corporation. Does it exist, can it exist? I dare say that it probably has to begin to exist if our future is going to be one that is going to be sustainable. In other words, corporations do have to become more sustainable and more…and have more ownership towards community goals. And so there’s a whole group of people that are beginning to write about, ‘What is the sustainable corporation? Can it even exist?’

So finally Indigenous food traditions, Indigenous family, Indigenous communities, Indigenous relationship, Indigenous health, Indigenous education, these are all areas, these are like different seeds. Remember I showed you some corn cob and there were seeds on it and there were different kinds of…hues of the kernels of the corn. They were different, but they all were on the same corn cob and that principle in biology is called unity and diversity. You have a unity in the form of the community itself but you have diversity in terms of the individual kernels of corn which will turn into individual corn plants. Well, the fact is that we have individual kernels around which ideas, concepts and education around Indigenous sustainability can actually be taught, can actually be experienced, can actually be extended and ultimately it’s coming back to that old, very ancient notion of a celebration of life or an extension of life. ‘Be with life’ was what I started the presentation with and that idea is I think an idea that has never grown old. It may have been subsumed by other kinds of understandings, other kinds of ways of looking at things, other perspectives, but the fact is that human beings live in communities and part of the real deep instinct, I think, that we have as human beings is that we extend life and that we’re a part of this greater life process, which is the earth’s life process.

And so this is a vision of education. I’m not saying that it exists in any place right now, maybe in a few Indigenous communities that haven’t been too assimilated. It may exist somewhere in the world. It doesn’t necessarily exist in its pristine form as it once existed and I’m not really saying that we need to go back to that way of living but we have to understand what that way of living had to teach us. And I think more particularly the principles of knowing and understanding what it takes to be sustainable in a world that is under great crisis today and will continue to be under great crisis in the succeeding generations. So it’s both a challenge, it’s both a vision, it’s a perspective, it’s new work that I think myself and others are beginning to undertake. It’s really almost like a research question. What is the sustainable, Indigenous community? Can it exist, does it exist, where does it exist, how can it exist? And more particularly the education question is how do we educate for that or at least educate towards that? Because I think ultimately the next generation of scholars, of foundations of education have to be ecologically sound, they have to be about environmental sustainability. It can’t be just a marginal kind of undertaking but rather it has to be I think an integral part of education in the 21st century. And I will bet you that you’ll begin to see not only writing and not only new kinds of ideas coming forward because now they have to around these issues, around these perspectives.

So for Indigenous people, what is Indigenous education? And it’s something I started in my dialogue in Look to the Mountain. Where have we been? Which is our traditions, our ways of life and understanding those. Where are we now? Which is really the context in which we all find ourselves with the challenges, with the kinds of institutions and then we have to have a vision of where we’re going to go in the future. What are the possibilities and what are the paths that we need to get there? So that’s what Look to the Mountain was. Look to the Mountain was a metaphor for, ‘Where have we been, where are we now and where can we go in the future,’ in terms of Indigenous education. So I leave you with that question. It’s a hard question. It’s not an easy one. It requires multiple heads to think about it. It requires a community to do it.

There was the old saying that I used in Look to the Mountain that ‘Indigenous education is about finding one’s face,’ which is to find one’s identity, that’s what we call identity today, ‘find one’s heart,’ which is that passionate sense of self that moves you to do what you do, ‘to find one’s foundation,’ which is in today’s language vocation, that kind of work that allows you to most completely express your heart and face, and that all of that is within a relational circle. That it’s first of all relationship between yourself and yourself, which is self knowledge; relationship between yourself and your family, your clan, your tribe, the place in which you live, and then finally the whole cosmos and that it is towards an understanding of becoming complete as a man or as a woman. And you see that whole thing is a sphere and it’s a sphere of relationality, a relationship, and that’s an Indigenous paradigm that is reflected in a variety of different ways in Indigenous philosophies about what it is to be educated, what it is to be a person of knowledge. So these are ideas that I think are very important to begin to consider as we move into the 21st century and have to really rethink the way we’ve created our institutions, the way we’ve educated, the way we have been educated, the way we understand the process and the importance of community within education and the importance to in a sense come back to that.

So with that I’d like to thank you and I’m now open for questions. I should also say that since this is being filmed that the slides that I’ve shown you are actually archival slides that comes from the University of New Mexico and so those are slides that just were meant to bring your thoughts and your ideas to those points, those perspectives. They’re based on Southwestern Pueblo life and tradition but it could just as easily have been Navajo, slides of Navajo life, slides of Apache life, slides of Pawnee life, slides of Algonquin and other peoples’ lives, other Indigenous peoples from all over the world. The same ideas and concepts I think have a similar kind of play within those societies. While we are different even among Indigenous people, we do share some common ideas and understandings and I think that’s what in a sense allows us to maybe call ourselves 'Indigenous.' So with that I’ll take some questions, comments, perspectives.”