Daniel Wildcat: 2021 Great Plains conference
Daniel Wildcat, Haskell Indian Nations University
"The Climate Change We Need: The Case for a Cultural Climate Change"
Worldviews are largely tacit and assumptive in character. Seldom stated explicitly or critically examined, the modern worldview of progress and technological accomplishment is a fundamental part of what needs to change today. Unless we foster a non-anthropocentric worldview, it will be difficult to successfully address the physical climate change problems humankind has produced. Making that shift might be easier than we think. This presentation suggests that many Indigenous worldviews offer examples of the kind of cultural climate change we need to successfully address the deadly and destructive physical climate change humankind now faces.
Dr. Wildcat writes on indigenous knowledge, technology, environment, and education. He is co-director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center. A Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, Wildcat recently formed the American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group, a tribal-college-centered network of individuals and organizations working on climate change issues. In 2008, he helped organize the Planning for Seven Generations climate change conference sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He is the author of Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge and is Professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.
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[00:00:00.963](gentle acoustic music)
[00:00:11.021](Dan speaks in Indigenous language)
[00:00:17.550]Good afternoon, everyone.
[00:00:18.800]My name is Dan Wildcat, and I am a Yuchi member
[00:00:22.710]of the Muscogee Nation or Creek Nation of Oklahoma,
[00:00:26.470]and so delighted to be a part of this symposium
[00:00:30.470]on climate change and and the Great Plains.
[00:00:34.500]Before I start my formal remarks,
[00:00:36.690]I would like to do a land acknowledgement
[00:00:40.930]and say a little bit about that, what that means.
[00:00:43.860]I think it's really important right now
[00:00:46.870]that as many public institutions
[00:00:49.440]start doing these acknowledgements
[00:00:52.830]and incorporating those into their programs
[00:00:57.780]that we not let this become a check the box activity.
[00:01:03.383]To acknowledge the land, that place where we sit,
[00:01:07.280]where we speak, where we live is really
[00:01:13.540]the way to center oneself
[00:01:15.740]in the activities that are so crucial
[00:01:19.950]to living as mature, responsible human beings
[00:01:25.190]in this age of the Anthropocene.
[00:01:29.230]So, I think that as I do this,
[00:01:33.480]I wanna emphasize the fact that acknowledgement entails
[00:01:39.930]if we do this, responsibilities we have to live well
[00:01:44.940]with the balance of creation we share
[00:01:47.160]this thin biosphere with.
[00:01:49.660]So, let me begin.
[00:01:53.160]I would like to acknowledge
[00:01:54.420]that I'm sitting in Lawrence, Kansas,
[00:01:57.490]not more than really less than a half a mile
[00:02:02.430]from the South bank of the Kansas River
[00:02:05.300]named for the Kaw People or the Kansa People,
[00:02:09.510]the original inhabitants of this place,
[00:02:12.903]as it kind of meanders
[00:02:14.460]through the North edge of Lawrence, Kansas.
[00:02:17.770]So I'm sitting very close to that South bank
[00:02:20.570]as the Kansas river moves through Lawrence, Kansas.
[00:02:25.860]And I'm thankful to have that river there.
[00:02:30.030]I'm also thankful that we have another river
[00:02:33.090]that's right close to the South edge of my home institution,
[00:02:38.010]Haskell Indian Nations University.
[00:02:39.930]I'm sitting probably less than, well, about two miles
[00:02:44.660]from our campus on the South edge of of Lawrence
[00:02:49.630]and near the Wakarusa River.
[00:02:52.650]In fact, our campus is quite lucky that we have part
[00:02:56.490]of the Wakarusa River wetlands
[00:02:59.730]that actually is a part of the Southern most region
[00:03:04.610]of our campus.
[00:03:06.060]We have a significantly large body of land with our campus,
[00:03:11.000]and the South part of that is (video freezes)
[00:03:14.680]And so, it's an incredible gift to have
[00:03:18.840]for those of us who are interested in teaching
[00:03:21.530]environmental science and about the land
[00:03:25.887]and our relationship to it.
[00:03:27.910]So I wanna acknowledge, literally, those rivers,
[00:03:32.553]the alluvial soils on those rivers,
[00:03:36.694]and the reservoir that was created by Clinton Lake
[00:03:42.880]on the Wakarusa River, that, and the Kansas River.
[00:03:47.410]And, when needed, the actual alluvial soils
[00:03:51.630]of the Kansas River provide the water
[00:03:56.460]that comes out of our taps in Lawrence, Kansas.
[00:03:59.850]So I'm thankful for that.
[00:04:01.160]And I'm thankful for those first peoples of this land,
[00:04:04.670]those first Earthkeepers of this land,
[00:04:07.960]the Kaw People who ironically due to government policies
[00:04:12.000]now reside in Oklahoma,
[00:04:14.240]but we're glad that they stewarded this land so well,
[00:04:21.510]and then the other tribes that came through here
[00:04:24.460]like the Osage.
[00:04:25.410]Osage are very familiar with this area also.
[00:04:29.740]And, of course, if we go just to the West,
[00:04:32.540]we have many tribes
[00:04:34.230]that were following those tremendous Buffalo herds,
[00:04:38.190]those bison herds, up and down the Great Plains
[00:04:43.590]of North America.
[00:04:45.510]So, acknowledge the first peoples, the land,
[00:04:50.370]the air, and the water.
[00:04:52.490]They give us life, and we're thankful for that
[00:04:56.100]and want to be mindful of the responsibilities we have
[00:05:01.060]to be good relatives to the rest of that life.
[00:05:08.660]So, that's a great
[00:05:13.440]introduction in a way to what I'd like to talk
[00:05:15.701]to you about today.
[00:05:19.660]In "Red Alert," when I was writing that book
[00:05:23.110]back in about 2007, 2008,
[00:05:29.370]very difficult book to write,
[00:05:32.310]in part, because in preparation for it,
[00:05:35.890]I just steeped myself in a lot of the scientific literature
[00:05:40.560]that was being written at the time.
[00:05:43.020]And, quite frankly, it was pretty depressing,
[00:05:47.000]because (chuckles) climate scientists were saying,
[00:05:50.437]"Hey, this is real.
[00:05:52.247]"We could be looking for very dramatic changes."
[00:05:59.510]At times I would just say like, "Oh my gosh,
[00:06:03.447]"how can I go on?"
[00:06:07.460]I reached out to a lot of my elders,
[00:06:12.490]people I've worked with, and have tremendous respect.
[00:06:17.050]Most of these are people who don't have PhD
[00:06:19.970]or anything like that after their name,
[00:06:22.450]but these are those traditional knowledge holders,
[00:06:26.674]people like the late Albert White Hat,
[00:06:33.903]the still with us, thank goodness,
[00:06:38.010]Faithkeepers like Oren Lyons, the Onondaga,
[00:06:41.080]the Haudenosaunee and, of course, Dr. Henrietta Mann,
[00:06:46.295]a Southern Cheyenne woman who's worked most of her life
[00:06:49.520]in Montana with Northern Cheyenne relatives.
[00:06:56.340]The list goes on and on.
[00:06:59.770]But as I was reaching out to with them
[00:07:04.370]and often expressing my frustration,
[00:07:06.540]they reminded me of something.
[00:07:09.220]And they reminded me of the fact that in our traditions
[00:07:14.571]we don't look to just our human relatives
[00:07:18.870]to gain knowledge about the planet we live on.
[00:07:23.260]We look to our other-than-human relatives,
[00:07:27.530]those planet relatives, the animal relatives,
[00:07:31.390]and in many of our traditions, we view them
[00:07:35.670]as our teachers and elders.
[00:07:38.020]So what I began to think about is,
[00:07:42.040]and I found really great comfort in that
[00:07:44.520]that we're not in this all alone.
[00:07:47.650]If it's up to humans to figure this all out,
[00:07:50.550]we might not be looking in the right place for the answers.
[00:07:56.860]Although, I wait 'til the end of the book to say this
[00:07:59.642]in my new version of "Red Alert 2.0,"
[00:08:02.570]which I hope we have out in the next year or so,
[00:08:06.047]"Red Alert 2.0,"
[00:08:08.130]I'm calling it to "2.0, Listening to Our Mother, the Earth,"
[00:08:14.260]and because what really I wanted to convey is the fact
[00:08:18.540]that indigenous knowledges
[00:08:19.837]are not strictly anthropocentric knowledges.
[00:08:23.310]We view knowledges as quite literally co-produced
[00:08:29.110]by what the wetlands, what the rivers,
[00:08:32.470]what the prairies, what the plains, what those grasslands,
[00:08:37.620]and the life in those places
[00:08:41.170]can teach us about those places.
[00:08:45.010]Nothing (audio cuts) about that view,
[00:08:50.850]I'm talking about an experiential knowledge
[00:08:54.280]that any good field researcher,
[00:08:56.650]natural science field researcher, can appreciate
[00:09:01.460]that we know that if we are mindful and attentive
[00:09:06.820]and pay attention to these places,
[00:09:09.560]they teach us something about what those places mean
[00:09:14.140]and the life that resides there and give us suggestions
[00:09:18.550]on how we might live well with that balance of life.
[00:09:23.617]And so literally our indigenous knowledges
[00:09:26.578]and traditional ecological knowledge
[00:09:28.895](indistinct) are co-produced.
[00:09:31.550]They are not anthropocentric knowledges.
[00:09:33.690]They are, if anything, ecocentric knowledges.
[00:09:37.690]And so, as I thought about what I wanted to share
[00:09:40.530]with you folks and this discussion about the Great Plains
[00:09:44.860]and climate change, it occurred to me
[00:09:47.300]that I ought to develop a little more fully this argument
[00:09:51.100]that I put forth in "Red Alert,"
[00:09:53.470]and that is I believe that before we can address
[00:09:56.830]the physical climate change that we're facing,
[00:09:59.880]we are in need of a cultural climate change.
[00:10:06.045]It's kind of fascinating to me
[00:10:09.018]looking at kind of pop culture
[00:10:12.520]in the dominant society that the two most often cited quotes
[00:10:19.110]by trainers today and thought leaders
[00:10:23.070]are ironically part of, I guess,
[00:10:27.840]a pop culture oral tradition, they're both apocryphal.
[00:10:33.700]The first one that I'd like to cite is that one
[00:10:36.930]attributed to Einstein, and you've heard it.
[00:10:39.930]I know you've all heard it, but no one can find evidence
[00:10:46.080]Einstein ever said this, but it's some wisdom.
[00:10:49.150]It's in the either.
[00:10:50.010]What is it it's attributed to Einstein?
[00:10:53.270]Well, you've heard it before, most of you.
[00:10:55.710]It goes something like this.
[00:10:57.760]Remember, you can't solve problems
[00:11:01.620]with the same kind of thinking that created them.
[00:11:07.740]We need new paradigms, new ways of thinking.
[00:11:13.390]And as it turns out,
[00:11:15.420]those new ways or new paradigms of thinking,
[00:11:19.930]I would suggest to you, reside with Indigenous people,
[00:11:24.220]and they are to us ancient ways of thinking and worldviews,
[00:11:29.340]if you will, paradigms that are very different
[00:11:33.850]than the dominant paradigms
[00:11:36.320]that have shaped our use of technology,
[00:11:39.640]how we look at the balance of creation
[00:11:42.880]beyond our human selves,
[00:11:46.250]and I think are really what I have called in other places
[00:11:51.490]are current antidote to destruction on the planet.
[00:11:55.550]I think now more than ever we need to listen
[00:11:58.810]to Indigenous people, because I think you all will admit
[00:12:02.820]Indigenous people's ideas have not even been given a chance
[00:12:07.620]to really be applied and put to use.
[00:12:14.530]In fact, we've had this kind of colonial imposition
[00:12:20.770]of predominantly Western ideas about our human selves,
[00:12:25.860]about quote nature, and our relationship
[00:12:31.190]in this complex web of life,
[00:12:34.380]so much so that even Native peoples
[00:12:38.100]had their own development
[00:12:39.810]and application of those things interrupted.
[00:12:43.140]I mentioned Haskell Indian Nations University.
[00:12:46.660]It is a part of the battle days, the boarding school,
[00:12:53.630]Indian education programs, when Richard Henry Pratt,
[00:12:56.830]the architect of the boarding schools,
[00:12:59.230]famously said, "The job of the schools
[00:13:03.227]"was to kill the Indian in order to save the man."
[00:13:07.830]So our very ways of thinking, our intellectual traditions.
[00:13:11.610]our spiritual traditions, and our cultures and our languages
[00:13:15.400]were viewed as the obstacles
[00:13:18.790]to us becoming productive, civilized members
[00:13:23.380]of this larger society.
[00:13:26.640]Well, the good news is we didn't vanish.
[00:13:28.760]We're still here, and we still have languages.
[00:13:34.600]We still have those worldviews,
[00:13:37.790]those cultural traditions that we can bring to bear now.
[00:13:41.700]So, I'd like to suggest that
[00:13:46.440]whether Einstein actually said it or not,
[00:13:49.360]the good news is Indigenous peoples have some ideas
[00:13:56.710]that are different than the dominant ideas
[00:13:59.330]that have shaped our attempts
[00:14:00.930]to solve the problems we're facing.
[00:14:03.550]And I'm gonna make the case today.
[00:14:05.800]We need more than ever to take those ideas seriously.
[00:14:14.170]So, that leads me to the second very apocryphal quote.
[00:14:19.450]This one attributed to Twain in various versions,
[00:14:24.510]but essentially in a Twain sort of motive speaking,
[00:14:32.550]goes something like this.
[00:14:35.290]When asked by a young man if he had any advice,
[00:14:40.750]it is alleged Twain said,
[00:14:44.207]"Remember, it's not what you don't know
[00:14:48.517]"that causes the problems.
[00:14:50.387]"It's what think you know that just ain't so
[00:14:54.487]"that causes all the problems."
[00:14:58.480]I think right now we have an opportunity
[00:15:02.810]to seriously examine what we think we know for everyone
[00:15:11.580]and really put it to the test and think about maybe
[00:15:21.080]there are some opportunities to explore areas
[00:15:25.240]we haven't had the opportunity to do previously,
[00:15:28.610]or the inclination to do, that I would suggest
[00:15:32.770]if we take Indigenous worldviews, ideas,
[00:15:37.274]philosophies seriously can give us some practical insight
[00:15:44.480]into how to address the changes we're seeing.
[00:15:48.420]And make no mistake about it.
[00:15:50.080]We all know those of us in the Central Plains.
[00:15:53.730]We're used to kind of the old joke.
[00:15:59.990]The one thing that they liked to tell in Kansas
[00:16:03.010]is about the settler coming across the Plains
[00:16:06.780]and stopping at Fort Scott and (indistinct) some supplies.
[00:16:11.290]And, of course, they happened to be right there
[00:16:13.280]in the middle of a very period of that strong North wind
[00:16:19.730]coming down the Plains.
[00:16:21.110]And the story goes like this.
[00:16:26.700]One of the settlers talks to the man in the general store
[00:16:32.100]and he says, "Boy, this wind is really something.
[00:16:36.727]"This weather is just horrible."
[00:16:44.060]The supplier in the general store said,
[00:16:48.787]"Oh, don't worry about it.
[00:16:50.237]"Tomorrow, it will really blow." (laughs)
[00:16:53.830]And so, we're used to extremes,
[00:16:58.880]extreme heat, extreme weather.
[00:17:00.550]We know one of the things that my friends in meteorology
[00:17:04.670]remind me of is we're in that perfect place
[00:17:08.040]in the Central Plains where these fronts
[00:17:11.590]have the opportunity to build up
[00:17:14.180]and (indistinct) those cold fronts
[00:17:17.970]as they move down through the Plains.
[00:17:20.950]And then, that warm air, which is getting warmer
[00:17:25.220]with the Gulf that pops up and moves North.
[00:17:28.880]And what happens when they hit?
[00:17:31.490]All of us know in Kansas and Nebraska.
[00:17:34.460]You see those magnificent,
[00:17:36.720]sometimes very dangerous, thunderstorms.
[00:17:40.380]We've just lived through, what, three weeks ago
[00:17:43.120]something like that, an incident.
[00:17:47.055]We refer to it as the polar vortex.
[00:17:50.610]And now, scientists draw it as cautious about being...
[00:17:55.500]They don't wanna make too many predictions
[00:17:57.990]until they've got plenty of evidence to make that,
[00:18:00.860]but it's clear.
[00:18:03.040]Many might tell you their hunches.
[00:18:05.930]Although, they would never claim
[00:18:07.730]that they've got the science to back it up,
[00:18:11.000]but their hunch is that these polar vortexes
[00:18:13.660]with warming and the melting of the ice in the Arctic
[00:18:18.030]is likely to become a more common experience here
[00:18:23.610]in the Central Great Plains.
[00:18:25.950]And so, while people in North Dakota and Minnesota
[00:18:29.920]and Wisconsin, they're used to that,
[00:18:32.400]they built and they clothed themselves in a way
[00:18:36.570]to be prepared for those 20 below days,
[00:18:41.810]20 below zero Fahrenheit days.
[00:18:46.280]Some of us in Kansas,
[00:18:48.400]and certainly probably Southern parts of Nebraska
[00:18:51.290]and Oklahoma, that's not something that would we built for,
[00:18:55.250]that we thought about.
[00:18:56.780]And now we're going to have to think about that.
[00:19:00.620]So it's a good time for us to really take to heart
[00:19:04.890]that apocryphal quote.
[00:19:06.280]I don't care who said it.
[00:19:07.490]It's pretty wise.
[00:19:09.110]We've gotta think about the things we thought we know
[00:19:13.890]and now realize that we really need
[00:19:19.110]to maybe examine some of those assumptions
[00:19:22.820]and consider studying some things we're not too sure about,
[00:19:27.363]but new ways of thinking might direct us to focusing on.
[00:19:33.000]So, I don't wanna be all doom and gloom.
[00:19:35.620]I think we are headed very much for significant disruption
[00:19:42.180]of patterns of weather
[00:19:45.960]of things that we have accepted in the past
[00:19:51.648]relative to seasonal changes,
[00:19:54.930]when those changes will happen now.
[00:19:57.710]I think that's all in the process now of being changed.
[00:20:04.980]So, with all of this change going on, how do we take this
[00:20:11.380]and make it something positive?
[00:20:14.260]I would say the best way to start might be to honor
[00:20:19.830]some of the wisdom of the First Peoples of this place,
[00:20:24.090]of this land in the Great Plains.
[00:20:26.730]So I put forward in a very brief sort of way
[00:20:30.050]three things that very widely shared.
[00:20:34.810]Now don't let anyone ever tell you
[00:20:36.378]what I'm gonna talk about is something
[00:20:39.760]that all native people embrace.
[00:20:45.000]Only a fool believes there's any expert
[00:20:48.170]on Indigenous peoples, not only in the world,
[00:20:51.497]but in North America.
[00:20:54.214]We are as diverse as the landscapes and the seascapes
[00:20:58.930]that we call home that gave us our cultures.
[00:21:06.410]That's how diverse we are.
[00:21:08.410]And so if you know anything about the geography
[00:21:10.810]of the United States, including Alaska,
[00:21:13.280]and I include our Pacific Island relatives,
[00:21:16.160]you know that the most distinguishing feature
[00:21:20.850]of Indigenous cultures is those cultures were emergent
[00:21:25.180]from a symbiotic relationship between a people and a place.
[00:21:33.400]When I started going up North...
[00:21:35.460]I grew up in Oklahoma, in Northeastern Oklahoma
[00:21:38.990]and Southeastern Kansas.
[00:21:41.360]That's where all my Yuchi relatives live,
[00:21:43.410]and some are my Pawnee relatives.
[00:21:45.270]My dad's eldest brother, my uncle Jimmy Wildcat got married
[00:21:50.380]into the Pawnee Nation,
[00:21:52.183]and so I have a bunch of Pawnee cousins in Oklahoma.
[00:22:00.290]Growing up (audio cuts) area,
[00:22:04.510]you kind of get the flavor of what it means
[00:22:07.400]to be a Native person in that place.
[00:22:10.050]When I got to Haskell Indian Nations University,
[00:22:13.310]which for those of you who don't know is the de facto
[00:22:17.680]national, or should I say international, tribal university
[00:22:21.440]in the United States, 'cause we are each nations
[00:22:24.630]within this larger nation.
[00:22:26.840]We are chartered to serve all federally recognized peoples
[00:22:33.170]of Alaska and the contiguous 48 states.
[00:22:39.890]We do not serve native Hawaiians.
[00:22:43.841]We are not able to do that.
[00:22:45.140]Maybe that'll change sometime in the future,
[00:22:47.455]but, at this point in time,
[00:22:52.760]until I got to Haskell,
[00:22:54.460]my experience of being a Native person
[00:22:57.290]was pretty much shaped by Oklahoma.
[00:23:04.008]Once I started working at Haskell and got sent to meetings
[00:23:06.910]up North in the Northern Plains,
[00:23:09.290]I noticed after about two or three trips,
[00:23:11.390]I'd hear a phrase that was often repeated
[00:23:15.090]in programs that I participated in.
[00:23:20.270]Whenever they'd ask an elder to do a prayer,
[00:23:23.280]I'd hear this phrase and I apologize to Lakota and Nakota
[00:23:28.673]or Dakota speakers.
[00:23:30.890]I still haven't lost my Oklahoma twang fully.
[00:23:34.400]Sometimes even when I pronounce these Native words,
[00:23:39.121]people kind of go like,
[00:23:40.347]"Wow, I've never heard it quite said like that,"
[00:23:42.710]but I wanna honor it.
[00:23:43.790]I'll do my best.
[00:23:45.530]I'd hear in their prayers this phrase, Mitakuye Oyasin.
[00:23:54.460]Some of you from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota,
[00:23:58.270]you've heard that, and you know what that means.
[00:24:01.600]In their prayers, it's an acknowledgement
[00:24:03.570]to all of my relations or all of my relation.
[00:24:09.010]I've heard many people,
[00:24:11.190]maybe not with that exact phrase, Indigenous people,
[00:24:14.340]talk about that as a fundamental principle
[00:24:18.290]of how we understood our human place
[00:24:26.360]on this planet.
[00:24:29.370]I heard Oren Lyons on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day
[00:24:32.940]make the following statement, Oren Lyons, an Onondaga,
[00:24:37.640]a Faithkeeper among the so-called Iroquois,
[00:24:43.260]was talking about natural resources officers
[00:24:47.730]from the state of New York coming to Onondaga lands.
[00:24:50.840]And he said they wanted to talk to them about
[00:24:54.020]how to more wisely manage their natural resources.
[00:25:00.360]And Oren said, "I stopped them right there.
[00:25:03.927]"And I said, 'You know, in our language,
[00:25:06.807]"'we have no word for resources,
[00:25:10.787]"'particularly when we talk about the trees and the deer
[00:25:14.337]"'and the grass and all the plants and animals.'"
[00:25:19.050]He says, "In our language, they are denominated relatives."
[00:25:26.470]And I thought about that for a long time,
[00:25:29.380]'cause it sort of summarized what I heard
[00:25:32.300]so many wise Indigenous people talk about,
[00:25:36.460]and that's that notion
[00:25:38.030]that it really does make a difference.
[00:25:40.700]If you think that you live in a world full of resources,
[00:25:44.970]first question might be, resources for whom?
[00:25:48.100]Okay, I guess, for us, humankind,
[00:25:52.520]as opposed to thinking of what it would mean
[00:25:54.780]to step into the world to live in the world
[00:25:57.650]in a way that you understood you live among relatives.
[00:26:01.930]I would argue the first culture
[00:26:07.890]change we ought to take seriously is thinking of
[00:26:13.020]how our use of technology,
[00:26:16.500]how our thought about how we live
[00:26:19.840]on the Great Plains would change
[00:26:22.940]if we started thinking that
[00:26:26.320]it's not about our management of resources,
[00:26:31.070]but it's first about our respect of relatives
[00:26:37.160]and what that would entail in terms of our use of technology
[00:26:43.440]and how we would choose to live in this beautiful landscape.
[00:26:50.090]So I'd suggest we might consider taking seriously the notion
[00:26:54.828]that we move from worldviews that are fixated
[00:26:58.090]on our human management and control of resources
[00:27:02.030]to saying, no, let's shift that slightly.
[00:27:05.170]Let's ask ourselves how to live respectfully
[00:27:09.400]in a world full of relatives,
[00:27:13.510]which brings me to then the second point
[00:27:17.600]that I think would be very interesting
[00:27:19.810]for us to (audio cuts).
[00:27:21.850]When you live with resources, you immediately start arguing
[00:27:24.800]about who has the right to that resource.
[00:27:29.350]We spent a lot of time about that.
[00:27:30.647]And those of us in the Great Plains
[00:27:32.530]and the Intermountain West are getting prepared again
[00:27:36.530]for what I refer to sometimes as the new big show,
[00:27:45.890]the new big show, the sustainability water wars.
[00:27:52.463]We already see lawsuits
[00:27:54.210]between states about water rights,
[00:28:00.270]and that goes with the resource worldview.
[00:28:04.150]I think what we need to do is go from
[00:28:07.010]that resource worldview
[00:28:10.980]to thinking about relatives,
[00:28:14.340]because in the resource view,
[00:28:16.690]we're always (indistinct) about who has a right to do what.
[00:28:21.250]We have a political system that's dominated
[00:28:23.770]by this notion of inalienable rights.
[00:28:30.240]Indigenous people value those as much as anyone
[00:28:32.950]on the planet and have as much respect for human liberty
[00:28:37.240]and individual expression of liberty as anyone.
[00:28:41.970]But I must say, what I have seen
[00:28:44.580]and been fortunate to experience
[00:28:46.270]is that Indigenous peoples view those rights as hollow
[00:28:53.210]without a counterbalancing acknowledgement
[00:28:58.650]of inalienable responsibilities that we have.
[00:29:03.880]When we have resources, it's all about rights,
[00:29:07.630]but when you live among relatives, at least in my family,
[00:29:12.390]it's also about your responsibilities.
[00:29:16.130]It's kind of interesting if you think about
[00:29:17.870]both of these points.
[00:29:19.240]They seem to be perfectly complimentary
[00:29:22.170]with modern evolutionary theory
[00:29:24.070]that says we are indeed literally all related
[00:29:27.680]on this planet, all life.
[00:29:30.310]And when we think about the growth of environmental science,
[00:29:33.540]what does that tell us?
[00:29:34.720]It tells us that we really can't understand
[00:29:37.750]any individual organism unless we take into account
[00:29:43.410]that larger set of relationships that they are involved in,
[00:29:47.560]hence, the development of modern ecology science.
[00:29:53.610]I think it's good news
[00:29:56.800]that Western science has finally caught up
[00:29:59.180]with (indistinct) system.
[00:30:01.540]These are ancient ideas among Indigenous people.
[00:30:04.400]We live among relatives.
[00:30:06.730]And when you live among relatives, you must start thinking
[00:30:10.040]about the responsibilities you carry in the world.
[00:30:14.070]I don't think there's anything romantic about those ideas.
[00:30:17.270]I think they're perfectly consistent with modern science.
[00:30:22.380]In fact, I'd argue, in fact,
[00:30:23.850]those are probably more complimentary
[00:30:26.480]to the kinds of thinking we see
[00:30:28.500]in modern evolutionary theory and ecological sciences,
[00:30:34.890]old Newtonian clockwork view of the world,
[00:30:37.380]that machine view of the world.
[00:30:39.660]Now we're not part of a machine,
[00:30:41.440]we're on a part of this very complex life system,
[00:30:45.880]which brings me to my third point.
[00:30:47.700]So the first two very quickly.
[00:30:49.550]We need to move from worldviews and paradigms
[00:30:52.450]that imagine we're full of resources
[00:30:57.157]to acknowledging now we live in a world full of relatives.
[00:31:02.230]And when we do that, we (video freezes) our fixation
[00:31:05.500]on inalienable rights and begin to counterbalance those
[00:31:08.990]within alienable responsibilities.
[00:31:14.340]The third point I'd like to make really is
[00:31:17.220]kind of complimentary to those first two,
[00:31:20.260]and that is that view obviously emphasizes the notion
[00:31:25.820]that we need to rid ourselves of the silos,
[00:31:30.850]and I don't have to talk to people
[00:31:32.230]in the academy about the silos.
[00:31:34.040]That's what everyone's been ranting about for ages.
[00:31:36.430]Oh, we've gotta get out of the silos.
[00:31:37.860]We've gotta get out of the silos,
[00:31:39.570]or, as people used to say a decade ago,
[00:31:43.270]we've gotta quit thinking in boxes.
[00:31:46.610]Good news is we have some people on the planet
[00:31:48.890]who never thought in silos and never thought in boxes.
[00:31:53.550]Indigenous worldviews, I would argue, the vast majority,
[00:31:57.100]it's a generalization.
[00:31:58.280]I'm not claiming for everyone,
[00:32:00.430]but certainly when you get to the Plains,
[00:32:02.180]you see this very evident in language and customs
[00:32:06.760]in ceremonies, song, traditions.
[00:32:10.530]You see this recognition that
[00:32:15.610]we are in this complex web of life,
[00:32:19.150]and that if we want to understand the problems we're facing,
[00:32:23.130]whether it's the diminishment of the Ogallala Aquifer,
[00:32:28.410]and what that's gonna mean to cereal grain production
[00:32:32.630]for farmers who depend on that pivot irrigation.
[00:32:36.330]What do we do when that's gone?
[00:32:37.840]Now's the time to really be having that discussion
[00:32:40.910]before it's just all gone, and then we'd go like,
[00:32:43.527]"Oh, what are we gonna do?"
[00:32:45.880]But that's a complex relationship.
[00:32:47.870]It has to do with the kinds of soil.
[00:32:49.930]It has to do with what we think might happen with weather.
[00:32:52.610]And it happens that to think about is maybe
[00:32:55.720]that really a kind of production that we can continue
[00:32:59.420]on the scale we have done?
[00:33:02.090]So I would argue for people who are thinking about
[00:33:07.340]holistic ways or complex ways of understanding problems,
[00:33:13.290]we have people on the planet who that's the way they think.
[00:33:16.600]They are Indigenous thinkers.
[00:33:19.590]And here's the good news.
[00:33:22.210]Again, the good news is that if we start thinking
[00:33:27.900]and trying to apply,
[00:33:29.240]create some interesting research projects with these ideas,
[00:33:33.457]and we no longer live in the machine-driven
[00:33:37.380]view of the universe,
[00:33:38.910]but now an organic view of the universe,
[00:33:41.810]it's about relationships, it's about processes,
[00:33:45.260]then I think we can
[00:33:48.460]maybe not only think about sustainability.
[00:33:51.330]I don't wanna go into sustainability.
[00:33:52.904]I know everyone was talking about sustainability
[00:33:55.990]for a while, but it's kind of no longer the term du jour.
[00:33:59.900]So everyone talks about resilience, right?
[00:34:02.610]Well, resilience, okay, but it's interesting.
[00:34:06.260]Resilience is kind of returning.
[00:34:10.650]For materials engineers, they would say, well,
[00:34:14.030]resilient material is something put's a lot of stress on,
[00:34:17.660]but then it can bounce back, it's resilient.
[00:34:21.550]Well, I would argue that we not only need resilience,
[00:34:25.140]but we need something called resilience plus.
[00:34:29.380]We don't wanna just return to what we previously had.
[00:34:35.610]I think it's possible for us to really examine
[00:34:39.180]how we might live more richly and more fully
[00:34:45.200]as human beings
[00:34:48.520]if we could just create the cultural change we need
[00:34:56.650]to effectively address the physical climate change
[00:35:00.050]that we face.
[00:35:03.330]As we move from resources to relatives,
[00:35:07.240]from absolute fixation on rights,
[00:35:10.240]to one counterbalance,
[00:35:11.980]a worldview counterbalanced with responsibilities,
[00:35:14.910]and let's forget the silos and the boxes.
[00:35:17.680]And let's entertain
[00:35:19.160]some really complex process-driven relationships
[00:35:22.860]we find our human selves in and never forget
[00:35:26.330]that when we're in those complex web of relationships,
[00:35:31.980]we're just one member of a larger kinship family,
[00:35:36.500]and that kin are the plants and the animals,
[00:35:39.850]and the home that we have with the land,
[00:35:42.690]the air, and the water.
[00:35:45.740]Thank you so much for this opportunity to share today.
[00:35:50.838](gentle acoustic music)
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