Robert Newman, Newman, Ph.D.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States
Change is coming and is already impacting many communities in the U.S. and across the globe in ways that are destructive to lives and livelihoods. Change itself is not new: the world has never been static and Indigenous peoples with ancestral tenure on the land and relationality to place have experienced and responded to seemingly endless change when it has occurred. Prior to colonization, climate, ecosystems and ways of living tied to those ecosystems were dynamic, requiring adaptive responses of human communities. Colonization and settlement introduced new dimensions of change. At times, these changes were propagated through direct colonial action such as land theft or indirectly through the ramifications of colonial ways of knowing and ways of being such as the climate crisis. Indigenous adaptation has included among other strategies, mitigation of ecological impact through time-tested practices and place-based knowledge, ecological restoration planning and implementation, climate adaptation, migration, and the development of new relationships to land, other humans, and more-than-human relatives. Whether relocation was voluntary or forced, an adaptive relational mindset allowed Indigenous peoples to survive and flourish under new circumstances in new places. Even now, resilience and sustainable relationships with lands and waters have allowed much higher levels of biological diversity to remain on Indigenous lands than elsewhere in the world. Ecologists and conservation biologists have much to learn from Indigenous peoples and their ways of relating to the places they inhabit and in which they have the freedom to maintain cultural practices. The same holds true for restoration of ecosystems that have been degraded by unsustainable practices. Indigenous communities in turn often look forward to creating a shared narrative with Western scholars based on mutual respect and a shared concern for the ecosystems we rely on for our lives and livelihoods. Ultimately, the adaptive relational mindset that is required for social-ecological resilience offers lessons in how humanity can meet the challenges imposed by climate change. We will explore those lessons in this symposium.
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