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Indigenous Perspectives on the Environment

A. Green

It is often posited that indigenous peoples possess a different relationship to and cosmology of the environment, of nature, of the natural world. In this course, we will interrogate this assumption through a series of case studies that examine indigenous experiences of natural and built environments.  Our guiding questions as we examine these case studies are: Does this collectivity express a unique perspective on the environment? How does that shape their relationship to their environments and the world at large? Are those relationships necessarily more sustainable? How can the natural world be managed according to these principles, or have we reached an impasse between resource extraction and resource renewal? We will use indigenous perspectives and experiences to examine issues that affect all of us: nonrenewable resource extraction, climate change, human-animal-plant relationships, the practice of science, and the limits to economic development.

You will leave the course with the ability to explain:
1) The adaptations of indigenous peoples as they confront threats to their well-being that have arisen through environmental misuse of the earth
2) Conflicts between indigenous dwellers, colonizing states and extractive industries happening on each continent
3) The conflicts and compromises between indigenous groups themselves as they struggle to make their ways in late capitalism
4) Various perspectives in the social sciences that conceptualize how we understand our natural worlds, including the ontologies and epistemologies of western science and indigenous traditional knowledges

Satisfies the depth component of the social science track and the breadth component of the natural science and humanities tracks of the Environmental Studies major.
Satisfies the social science requirement of the Environmental Studies interdisciplinary minor.
Satisfies the cultural diversity requirement.