The World as Self: Challenging the Anthropocene with Indigenous Knowledge

Authors: RDK Herman*, National Museum of the American Indian
Topics: Anthropocene, Indigenous Peoples, Geography Education
Keywords: Anthropocene; Indigenous Knowledge; Ethnography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Anthropocene is defined by the ways in which humanity has altered the living earth. Tthese changes are characteristic of modernity and global capitalism, driven by the de-sacralization of nature and a disconnect with what our elders and spiritual teachers have told us over millennia. The culture-scape of modernity is now taken for granted, along with the secular-humanist (or secular-selfish) culture that has spread worldwide.

My approach to breaking students out of that mindset is to present Indigenous cultures—specially Pacific Island cultures—in the words of the people themselves, who learned long ago how to live in the finite environments and developed cultures that taught the connectedness of people to each other and to their fellow nations of beings. The Pacific Worlds project combines community documentation of place-based knowledge with curricula for teaching Indigenous geography. But the project plays a much bigger role of presenting place-based indigenous knowledge, practices, understandings and values to the world. In so doing, it poses a contrast to traditional anthropological or cultural-geography approaches to understanding Indigenous cultures.

The project recently evolved into something more focused on conservation and climate change, looking particularly at communities that are reinvigorating traditional practices. I project offers a template and methodology for any community anywhere to document place-based knowledge. In our rapidly changing world, the time to capture such knowledge is now, so that in the future peoples may look back on the state of their culture before the ravages of climate change—which appear to be at our doorstep—took hold.

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