Perceiving Place: Exclusion of Indigenous Worldviews in Environmental Impact Assessments

Authors: Katie Grote*, University of Kansas
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Justice, Legal Geography
Keywords: Activism – Indigenous, Place – Agency, Environmental Policy, Environmental Impact Assessment, South Lawrence Trafficway, Dakota Access Pipeline, Indigenous Geography, Cultural Geography, Wetlands, Kansas, Missouri River, North Dakota
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 21
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cross-cultural dialogue in environmental policy provides opportunities to engage new ways of thought and solutions to difficult problems. The settler-state hegemony has disregarded Indigenous science and worldviews, ignoring the potential for Indigenous peoples to be decision-makers on environmental issues. The omission of Indigenous perspectives in environmentally adverse decisions forces Indigenous peoples to pursue other methods of involvement, such as activism. This paper focuses on Indigenous environmental activism in two case studies. The first is in Northeastern Kansas where Indigenous peoples and allies led a decades long protest against the construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Wakarusa Wetlands, a place with ecological, historical, and spiritual significance. The second study is in North Dakota where Indigenous peoples and allies resisted the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline underneath Mni Sose (Missouri River), a non-human relative of the Lakota peoples. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) process for both development projects ignored and misinterpreted Indigenous perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to review the EIA documents and environmental policy to explore how Indigenous peoples, perspectives, and attachment to place, were mis/represented during the EIA process. This paper provides insight on necessary changes for improved and informed environmental decision-making with Indigenous communities. This is a preliminary study for a larger systematic issue. Indigenous perspectives, knowledge systems, and ways of life are not adequately considered in environmental policy. Future research, workshops, and cross-cultural exchanges may provide insight on potential systematic changes that exalt inclusivity and bridge the divide between Western and Indigenous perspectives.

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