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How can I support the application of Indigenous laws?

Author Alejandro Frid

Alejandro Frid, the author of Changing Tides: An Ecologist's Journey to Make Peace with the Anthropocene, was asked the question "how can I support the application of indigenous laws" many times during his book tour this past fall. Alejandro elaborates on his original response in today's post..

How can I support the application of indigenous laws

That question heartens me. It tells me that those who ask are listening and care to participate in a much-needed transformation of society. Even better: the question has come up several times as I discuss with radio hosts or audience members my new book, Changing Tides, where I argue that integrating the traditional knowledge and laws of Indigenous peoples with science can improve our relationship with Earth.

Yet there is no short, generic answer for how individuals might support Indigenous laws. We are in a time of transition in which, after a dark history of colonialism, Indigenous laws are being reawakened, reclaimed and revitalized. And this reawakening is starting to influence broader society—in British Columbia, for instance, you can see it in recent changes to fisheries legislation that I describe in Changing Tides. But the pace of change and the willingness of Indigenous Nations to engage with others may vary according to where you live.

If you want to support Indigenous laws, here are some starting points

Learn about the history and current context of Indigenous peoples in your country and local areas. The following books and article by Indigenous authors are excellent starting points for the American or Canadian contexts:

Enter a local conversation.

  • Find out on whose territory or territories you live in.
  • If Indigenous organizations in your area host public events (including those related to environmental activism), participate and connect with them during those events.
  • If the local First Nation’s office has a communications staff person, reach out asking how you can learn more about their history and current engagement in conservation/resource management, and whether there are opportunities to support their activities.
  • Visit cultural centres created by First Nations and which are open to everyone—such as the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, in Whistler, BC—and ask lots of questions.

Support organizations in which Indigenous and settler peoples work together to revitalize and integrate Indigenous perspectives on how society at large can improve its relationship with the planet.

  • For instance, “RAVEN is a non-profit charitable organization that provides financial resources to assist Aboriginal Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life, and in a manner that addresses global warming or other ecological sustainability challenges.” Their vision “is a country that embraces the ancestral laws of Indigenous Peoples and their equitable access to the justice system within a thriving natural habitat.”
  • Other organizations that apply similar principles include West Coast Environmental Law and Clayoqout Action.
  • Within Canada, organizations like the Indigenous Leadership Initiative are an important voice for Indigenous-led conservation.
  • There also international organization like the ICCA consortium.

Connect with existing protected areas that honour Indigenous perspectives and management. These include:

Learn about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ways in which you may be able to support implementation of its principles at a local level.

  • For instance, the British Columbia government is currently engaged in its own implementation of the UN Declaration at the provincial level. The extent to which that actually happens will be influenced by the support and involvement of local citizens.

Support and promote improvements to the educational system.

  • My view is that courses that teach the history and modern contexts of Indigenous peoples, both at local and broader regional scales, should become standard curricula at middle school and high school levels in ways that are inclusive of both Indigenous and settler students. Such courses would emphasize ways in which Indigenous and settler peoples are working together towards reconciliation, and potential ways to improve that process. The curricula should be designed by and, as much as possible, taught by Indigenous educators.
  • For children growing in Indigenous communities, educational resources     must improve, ensuring that they have equal opportunities for higher education. Tell your political representatives that this is a critical issue. This will increase the opportunities for Indigenous children to grow up to become leaders in the coalescing of Indigenous traditional knowledge and science and in the integration of Indigenous laws and Western legal systems. There are some very inspiring examples of this happening in Hawai’i.
  • Support publishing houses, such as Strong Nations, created by Indigenous educators who are dedicated to disseminating First Nations voices.

Our support for the traditional laws of Indigenous peoples—for their reawakening, for their integration into environmental regulations and the governance of natural resources—can help humanity shift in a direction that treads more gently on our planet. The fact that radio interviewers and audience members who hail from vastly different places—ranging from the eastern US to Canada’s west Coast—want to engage in their support for Indigenous laws suggests that such change could happen quicker than I may have anticipated.

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