Decolonizing Conservation in the 21st century 2

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Windows, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Organizers: Eric Perramond, Andrew Curley
Chairs: Robin Roth


Decolonizing Conservation in the 21st century (under the “Changing North American Continent” theme)
The last decade has heightened the visibility and key role of indigenous struggles to retain, develop, or expand Native access and livelihoods. In the wake of Keystone, Standing Rock, and Bears Ears, indigenous peoples are at the forefront of questioning capitalism and livelihoods in the 21st century (Corntassel 2012; Higgins 2018; Estes 2019). In the last few decades, Native claims to long-unacknowledged water rights have been adjudicated and settled in often unjust or unsatisfactory ways. Indeed, navigating as Native sovereigns between state and federal sovereignty has been a challenge, and the politics of “refusal” has met with limited success in some cases (McCool 2006, Coulthard 2014; Curley 2019; Perramond 2019; Yazzie and Risling-Baldy 2018).
Recent attempts to challenge the conservation-colonialism coupling, to name a few examples, include Jemez Pueblo’s unsuccessful claims to sovereignty over the Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico; The Blackfeet in northern Montana are attempting to form a national park effort led by them, adjacent to the existing federal public Glacier National Park. The liminal status of Bears Ears National Monument, now pending in federal court, shows the precarious nature of these new Native-led conservation efforts. These are bounded, spatial efforts at decolonization, but species recovery efforts (ferrets, bison, salmon) and Native foods and Native diet activists must also be considered as part of this larger umbrella as indigenous sovereign reclaim what life and livelihoods resemble when recovered in this century (Smith 2013).
Drawing on examples from geographic work in the Americas, this session explores how decolonization theory, methods, and mindsets intersects with dominant notions of “conservation” and larger movements towards indigenous sovereignty over conservation. Framed another way, is Native sovereignty a new-old way of conserving? Is it up to conservationists to “get out of the way” of these indigenous led efforts? What does decolonizing conservation look like in settler-colonial states that refuse to acknowledge colonial pasts and presents (Simpson 2014)? And when, where, and how can it be done?
We welcome papers from across the Americas to discuss how decolonizing efforts away from western scientific conventions, texts, and approaches of “conservation/preservation” take shape and include indigenous and Chicanx perspectives (Ybarra 2016). What factors allow for more indigenous agency and success? Where are such efforts largely unsuccessful? How do Native sovereign, regional, and transnational collaborative efforts translate on the ground to create successful outcomes?
Session Organizer(s): Eric Perramond (Colorado College), Andrew Curley (UNC-Chapel Hill)
Co-sponsored by the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group (CAPE) and the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group (IPSG)


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Justine Townsend*, University of Guelph, “All Our Relations”: Indigenous Conservation Governance and Reconciliation in Canada 15 9:35 AM
Presenter Noella Gray*, University of Guelph, Rachel Arsenault, York University, Megan Youdelis, University of Guelph, Larry McDermott, Plenty Canada, Decolonizing research on international conservation governance 15 9:50 AM
Presenter Teresa Montoya*, University of Chicago, Monumental Crisis: County Politics and Indigenous Land Protection at Bears Ears 15 10:05 AM
Presenter Danika Littlechild*, Carleton University, The Role of Ethical Space in Processes of Decolonization 15 10:20 AM
Discussant Andrew Curley University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 10 10:35 AM

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