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[00:00:02:01] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Because even if, for example, you got to a world that was keeping well below the 2 degree increase, but that meant the further genocide against indigenous people, I'm not sure that I would really count that as a very fulfilling or satisfying solution. Instead, it's just another one of these techno fixes, which primarily saves not indigenous people, but at the expense of the well-being, livelihood, and continuance of indigenous people.
[00:00:36:24] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Welcome to "Climate Conversations." I'm Rajesh Kasturirangan. And this week we've got a fantastic perspective, one that we have never had before, Kyle Powys Whyte, who's going to be bringing an indigenous Native American perspective to the climate justice movement.
[00:00:54:13] And here in Cambridge, I'm with my colleague--
[00:00:58:10] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Dave Damm-Luhr. Glad to be here and really looking forward to hearing what Dr. Whyte has to say about the indigenous view of scholarship and climate justice.
[00:01:08:22] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Onto Kyle. Thank you so much, Kyle, for joining us.
[00:01:13:12] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Thanks for having me. I look forward to discussing with you all.
[00:01:17:18] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: We're really glad to have you here. Why don't we start with a brief round of personal introductions. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, background, what motivates you, and how you came into the work that you're doing?
[00:01:30:12] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Yeah, absolutely. So the research and the teaching I do as well as the institution building work and activism comes out of a personal connection for me. I'm a Potawatomi person and an enrolled member Citizen Potawatomi Nation. And we're an indigenous peoples of North America. And you know, most often we're called the Neshnabe people. And we're part of the larger Neshnabe group that includes Ojibwe, Odawa, and other related people who are primarily based in the Great Lakes.
[00:02:08:12] And for me, at an intellectual level, one of the interesting things about the Neshnabe people is even though we have a very strong tradition of the importance of living in certain ecosystems and environments and doing so ethically and sustainably in that kind of attachment to place, we're also a people who believe very much of the importance of mobility and adapting to change. And even our historic migration story concerns the idea that we originally came from the East Coast and migrated to all these different locations where we actually had to learn to develop new relationships with new plants, animals, insects, fish, ecosystems. And so a lot of our history has to do with what are the best practices for adapting and adjusting to new environments, new places, including environmental change.
[00:03:06:26] And then just briefly, one of the key parts of who I am is that my particular tribe was forcibly relocated by the United States in the 19th century from the Great Lakes to what's now called the state of Oklahoma. And so again, we had to adapt to change very rapidly, and in a sense, had to adapt to a form of human imposed climate change, right, because we moved from the Great Lakes climate region to a completely different climate region, Oklahoma.
[00:03:37:19] And so for our people, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, it's always a discussion that we're having about how is it that we adjusted to that environmental change? And what was the leadership? What was political strategy? How did our culture have to change to best be able to make those adaptations?
[00:03:58:03] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I'm sure that there are many stories to be told there. And you actually analytically talk about it very powerfully, which is to say that climate injustice against indigenous peoples is insidious as it involves years of coupled colonial and capitalist domination. And what's happened to your own community is an example of that. But could you unpack that statement? Both as an academic and as an individual, how do you see that statement?
[00:04:29:18] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: That's a great question. And I think for me what was really surprising was when I began to become informed about the different issues that indigenous people all across North America were facing with respect to climate change, whether it was the risk of salmon shortage in the Pacific Northwest or whether it was tribes and villages that have to relocate due to sea level rise in the Arctic, or whether it's communities that were concerned that with environmental change their knowledge of their elders is no longer as relevant as it was historically.
[00:05:08:15] I realized in all these cases, back in the day, these types of changes would not actually have been huge issues for some of those same groups. So for example, a lot of salmon-based tribes, you know, back in the day, actually had pretty well worked out diplomatic protocols across different communities within those tribal groups, so that if somebody inhabiting one river or coastal area where they were harvesting salmon, if there happened to be a shortage of salmon during that time of the year, the other groups would come to help that group. And in return that group would have a long-term responsibility to help those other people. So the idea of a salmon shortage, for example, they would have been able to deal with that through very intimate diplomatic relationships.
[00:05:58:27] In the case of climate induced relocation, when I began looking at a lot of the scholarship and testimony from those communities, you found that actually historically they lived in really huge regions in the Arctic, where they were constantly moving around throughout the year. And so something like sea level rise would affect one very small island wouldn't have been a big issue for them. Except today, due to US colonialism, due to Canadian colonialism, many of these villages now live on extremely small areas of land. And they're not a lot of options for them to move anymore.
[00:06:36:23] When you also look at cases where communities, like I mentioned before, are concerned about loss of elders knowledge, well, historically for tribes, knowledge was dispersed across the community, including being held by young people, as well as being held by non-humans. So in our traditions, oftentimes plants and animals and insects and fish are actually considered to be keepers of knowledge. And so if one person's knowledge or one group's knowledge for whatever reason became no longer relevant, the rest of the community, including the non-human community, would be there to support the continuance of knowledge in the first place, or continue its knowledge moving forward.
[00:07:19:04] And so when you look at all these examples, you say, well, why is it that historically these impacts wouldn't have been a problem but today that they are? And you find that in each of these examples there are very deliberate US, Canadian policies and colonial histories that have put us in a situation where we're either living on land that's too small or at least our jurisdiction in those lands is too small to be able to adapt to climate change, we're living in a situation where we don't have good diplomatic relationships with the US or Canada. And so we don't have a good organization set up so that we can respond to issues of shortage that might be induced by climate change.
[00:08:02:12] And also our communities, owing to boarding schools and other colonial policies, are now much more fragmented and fractionated than they might have been historically. Meaning that you might have the community where it really is the elders hold all the knowledge. And if that knowledge goes away, then it's a loss to the entire community.
[00:08:23:00] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So that you do talk about bringing together indigenous groups to address these kinds of challenges. So can you tell our listeners some specific initiatives or institutions that are being created for addressing these kinds of issues?
[00:08:41:21] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Well, one of the ironies of colonialism is that it's put us in a situation where people might know that their particular tribe, such as Potawatomi or Ojibwe or Salish Kootenai or Nisqually or other groups. But people don't realize that historically, we had incredible regional and continental, as well as local networks, that connected indigenous people to each other.
[00:09:08:20] And so oftentimes I have these discussions with climate scientists where the assumption is that indigenous knowledge is primarily local knowledge. And so I'd always say, historically, we had these huge networks that managed trade, that managed exchange of knowledge and culture, and that built pretty diverse relationships across the indigenous people who didn't necessarily live that closely to each other.
[00:09:32:12] But today because we've kind of been forced into these very individual tribal identities, and largely because of US policies that created reservations and incentivized a lot of tribes to take on a certain type of tribal government system, that we're all pretty separated. And most of us when we engage in issues of climate change, we're engaging with non-native people, non-indigenous people, who might not understand some of these histories of colonialism, who might not understand that our cultures have always been adaptive and aspire to sustainability.
[00:10:12:06] And so you're seeing a lot of indigenous people in addition to engaging non-indigenous audiences, they're also trying to engage each other again and restore those diplomatic relationships. So for example, I do a lot of work with the Sustainable Development Institute at the College of Menominee Nation. And the Sustainable Development Institute, which is really cool, this is a tribe that created their own Institute of sustainable development in the early '90s, which was well before many universities developed programs in sustainability, and they regularly host-- and I've been part of a lot of these projects-- conferences with a large contingent of indigenous participants on climate change. They host educational activities that bring tribes together and to be able to discuss climate change and climate justice issues openly without always having to do that translation work that we have to do when we're talking to non-indigenous people who don't necessarily know our history.
[00:11:14:15] And so you see, I think, tribes, indigenous people like the Menominee really taking an initiative both to engage non-indigenous people, but also to build back up those diplomatic relationships that have been greatly harmed by US and Canadian colonialism.
[00:11:33:15] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So what can non-indigenous people do to inform themselves and learn from the indigenous approach to the environment?
[00:11:42:01] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: You know, we've seen over the last decades a tremendous amount of interest of non-indigenous allies to support what we're doing to address climate justice issues. And it's a key topic and challenge but there are some twists and turns, I think, to how we understand that.
[00:12:04:10] So for example, when a lot of climate scientists realized that indigenous people had pretty good knowledge oftentimes of historic and ongoing climate change in their region that climate scientists wouldn't have access to necessarily because they might have more recently been studying that area that they really wanted to engage indigenous people. And as many folks know, historically indigenous knowledge systems were disrespected as not being scientific.
[00:12:34:16] And so there you say, oh, well, that's great, that the scientists are recognizing the importance of indigenous knowledge. But the problem was that they were oftentimes, and obviously this is not true for all scientists, but there is certainly a sizable group of scientists that really just thought that indigenous knowledge was important as information that could then better fill out scientific studies of climate change. And so there, indigenous people were just valued in terms of their knowledge or what their participation could do to benefit science and the careers of scientists. And so that's a pretty one-sided relationship.
[00:13:15:05] Whereas what I've really pushed a lot of my science their colleagues to think about is how is it that one's work as a scientist can be part of a tribe's ongoing story of living in an area for hundreds, even thousands, of years and now facing these highly disruptive challenges from the US, from the international system, from corporations? And how is it that that scientist's work can then impact an indigenous people's own capacity to better address climate change issues, climate justice issues? So how can that scientific work actually contribute to building up indigenous capacity to exercise self-determination in the arena of climate change adaptation and climate justice?
[00:14:02:26] And that suggests very different types of career goals for scientists, because you're no longer being measured by how many articles you have, but you're also being measured by did your work improve tribal capacity? Did it inspire tribal youth to engage in leadership and scientific careers in their own tribes? Did it affect a tribe who now can have a climate change plan? Did it inform a climate justice effort that a tribe was trying to engage in to bring attention to a problem that they were facing with the nearby town or the state or the province? And so that's kind of one example where allyship is much more than just recognizing the value of what indigenous people have to offer.
[00:14:48:22] And another thing I wanted to mention on the issue of climate justice-- and this came up in the Dakota Access Pipeline issue last year or so-- is that there are many non-indigenous people that rallied in support of the tribe and spent time at Standing Rock to be part of the work of the Water Protectors and to participate in this very movement to protect water as life or water as a significant, sacred, and important aspect of our lives and is relative, not just an entity or a resource.
[00:15:25:13] And for some people, some allies who went out there, and I talk to them about their experiences after they visited. I asked, was that the first time that you had advocated for an indigenous environmental issue? And many of them said, yes.
[00:15:42:15] And what was funny about that was that a lot of them live in areas in the US or Canada where there's all sorts of indigenous environmental issues right next door to where they live. And they've never been advocating for those issues, yet they were compelled to go out to Standing Rock and support that tribe's efforts against the Dakota Access Pipeline. And so there it's a matter of consciousness so that people continue to support issues of the national scale, they continue to support tribes like Standing Rock, but at the same time they're taking that energy and they're also addressing day-to-day social, political and cultural issues that tribes they live next door to are also facing. And so it's an everyday form of allyship, an everyday form of activism. And I think that that's what we need to see a lot more of.
[00:16:28:21] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So to just take that one step further, because the mainstream climate movement primarily concerns itself with institutions that don't have indigenous representation, and that could be international treaties, that could be energy policies, how do you see the movement for climate justice not just embracing indigenous perspectives, but also adopting some of those views as their own inspirational principles?
[00:17:09:11] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: That's a great question. Well, you have several different ways, at least from my perspective, on how to think about that.
[00:17:17:26] So for example, for a lot of indigenous people, the climate justice movement is kind of one in the same with issues that I know often see discussed that up front in the larger climate justice or mainstream climate justice movement. So for example, for a lot of tribes, and this certainly came out with the Dakota Access Pipeline issues, that the issues that, especially indigenous women and girls and two-spirit persons face with sexual violence, is actually heavily tied to climate justice.
[00:17:56:08] So on the one hand scholars, such as Sarah Deer or Victoria Sweet, have actually shown them that the man camps that are built up to accommodate fossil fuel extraction are ones where indigenous persons, women and girls, two-spirit persons, are heavily trafficked in the sex trade. They also show that as climate change warms up certain regions and makes more resources available for extraction, then that also increases man camps, which in turn increases sexual violence.
[00:18:25:29] And then too, if you look particular at why indigenous persons are so vulnerable to sexual violence, including some statistics that I think indigenous women and girls, I mean, 1 in 3 will have to experience some form of sexual violence. And a lot of that is actually caused, at least in the US, by a particular imposition of the form of government by the US on tribes. It makes it very hard for tribes to protect women from sexual violence and very hard for women to exercise self-determination of their own bodies and to consent to relationships that they're in.
[00:19:07:26] And it turns out that those same governments that the US impose on tribes I was just talking about, which were actually also designed to facilitate extractive industries in tribal land. And so when you just peel all of these layers, you realize that the indigenous movement against sexual violence is also the movement against climate injustice. And so from an indigenous perspective, they're hard to disentangle. So if somebody advocates for stopping sexual violence against indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit persons, they're also advocating for climate justice as well. And so that's one example.
[00:19:50:07] Another example is that for indigenous people, we've been through multiple periods of environmental change, both before the US and Canada in North America, but then also most disruptively as imposed by US and Canada on us. And so the US and Canada, as a scholar that I read a lot, Zoe Todd, talks about completely terraformed North America. And they completely changed the ecosystems to then be suitable for the types of industries and economies and cultures that came then with US and Canadian settlers. And so basically, that is an imposition of climate change on indigenous, people because indigenous people had actually cultivated the landscapes historically to serve their economic, cultural, political needs.
[00:20:41:23] And what's happened is that the US and Canada actually do not respect the fact that their continued lack of support for our treaty rights, their continued lack of support for our self-determination, for our cultural integrity, this makes it very hard for us to adapt to climate change and to have a voice in the larger economic decisions, which continue to support fossil fuel extraction.
[00:21:13:04] And so for mainstream climate justice activists, I think they need to realize that something like treaty rights for indigenous people, as in indigenous treaties with the US or Canada, fighting for those treaty rights is also fighting for climate justice, because were we to exercise those treaty agreements and have that level of self-determination that our ancestors believed that we would have now when our ancestors got involved in those treaties, then we'd be able to have a much bigger voice when it comes to economic decisions, to environmental policy in North America and globally.
[00:21:48:16] And so again, for us, those forms of domination, going back 100 years, 200 years, even though for a lot of non-indigenous people, those are, quote, "historic, unquote, for us they're not historic, because they are still problems. They're still issues that we face.
[00:22:07:24] The last thing I want to mention as well is that for the mainstream climate justice movement, there, I think, needs to be some recognition that many of the solutions that get proposed, whether by more radical people or more conservative people, as solutions to climate justice, they could be just as bad for indigenous people. So for example, one of the solutions to climate change is the return of hydropower or forest conservation, such as the United Nations red policy.
[00:22:44:23] What we've already seen that these conservation efforts, that these hydropower efforts, are still ones that are displacing indigenous people, are ruining indigenous land. And so just like historically, hydropower and the conservation movement were some of the biggest enemies of indigenous people and invoked some major harms against our communities and nations, they're still doing that. And so for a lot of indigenous people, the idea that a solution is just automatically going to be something that indigenous people support is not always the case.
[00:23:20:26] We're actually concerned still about the solutions. And I think mainstream climate justice advocates need to realize that every time the US or Canada did something that harmed us, going back several hundred years, they always said it was for the benefit of all people or all of humanity, that they always thought that they were in the moral right. And so I think climate justice activists need to really think historically about how indigenous people might look to some of their proposed solutions.
[00:23:54:07] So So just to give you an anecdote, hydropower has now been rebranded as clean or renewable energy. But in fact, my own personal introduction to environmental activism was a major series of dams in Western India, which primarily displaced indigenous Indian communities.
[00:24:19:08] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Absolutely. And these histories, these historic issues, as well as current issues need to be kept in mind by-- I mean, kept in mind is to put it lightly-- but need to be at the forefront of what the mainstream climate justice movement is thinking about regarding its connections to indigenous people, because for a lot of indigenous people-- I mean, this is heavily a North American perspective, but obviously I think this applies elsewhere-- both the political left and right have been harmful to us. And they both continue to exercise oppression against indigenous people.
[00:24:57:21] So just because, for example, somebody's politics are either very practical, in terms of looking for practical solutions, or very radical in terms really trying to get to the bottom of how domination and oppression works, just by virtue of having a view of a particular kind doesn't mean that the solutions coming out of that are going to be any better for indigenous people, because if they don't ultimately respect indigenous peoples consent, self-determination, if they ultimately work to create the conditions for indigenous people to flourish on their own lands, then they're not really solving any problems.
[00:25:37:09] Because even if, for example, you got to a world that you know was keeping well below the 2 degree increase, but that meant the further genocide against indigenous people, I'm not sure that I would really count that as a very fulfilling or satisfying solution. Instead, it's just another one of these techno fixes, which primarily saves non-indigenous people but at the expense of the well-being, livelihood, and continuance of indigenous people.
[00:26:10:25] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Kyle, I'd like to ask some questions about your academic work, your teaching and research. You write that indigenous and allied scholars, knowledge keepers, scientists, learners, change makers, and leaders are creating a field to support indigenous peoples capacities to address human caused climate change. Can you tell us a little bit about your efforts to create a field?
[00:26:34:16] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Absolutely. And I'm glad you asked that question, because I've really been trying to promote indigenous scholarship these days in environmental fields. And one of my first attempts to do that was with regard to indigenous scholarship on climate change and climate justice. And I'll be expanding this even more.
[00:26:56:29] But so one of the things, just to go back a bit, is that an indigenous people, any tribal community or nation, we all have our own intellectual traditions and knowledge systems and forms of research and scholarship and so on that we're pretty well integrated in our communities to ensure that we had really reliable knowledge about how to govern themselves and how to adapt to change.
[00:27:22:28] And if you look in the United States, for example, most colleges and universities, to be honest, most of them don't even have a single indigenous faculty member, and many don't even have more than one or two classes on indigenous topics. And so the United States, given today that there's so much resources and effort that are put into colleges and universities as sort of the primary mechanism of higher education, whether it's the private research universities or the community colleges, that it's really scandalous that you hardly see any representation of indigenous histories, traditions, or scholarship.
[00:28:03:00] And what that's meant, of course, is that for particular indigenous groups that they are trying to rebuild back their traditions of research and scholarship, so that they can have people, scholars, who are actually doing work that supports indigenous people's aspirations and self-determination. And the indigenous research movement is actually a global movement to try to essentially create more opportunities for indigenous persons, but also allied scholars to actually do research that means something to particular tribal communities or to networks of tribal peoples or to indigenous peoples globally. And a lot of this movement has been extremely well articulated by the Maori in Aotearoa, New Zealand. So the work most notably of Linda Smith and an organization that I'm on the international advisory board for, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga in Aotearoa, New Zealand, which we're all trying to create environment for indigenous scholars to do work that matters to their communities and nations.
[00:29:13:03] And so with respect to climate change and climate justice, what I found was already there were a tremendous amount of indigenous and allied scholars who were publishing and writing on climate change, whether at academic venues or non-peer reviewed venues or in courts or in podcasts or declarations, that was really changing how climate change research is really being done. And so for example, I noticed a couple of differences in the indigenous scholarship.
[00:29:42:25] So, one, I found that for indigenous people the idea that society needs to be organized to adjust to the dynamics of ecosystems is not a new idea. It's an idea that indigenous people have had for years. And that's not to say that indigenous people are the most sustainable or have the most sustainable traditions. It's not that. It's just to say that when we talk about our histories of political philosophy and our histories of cultural formation and our histories of migration and change throughout the last several thousand years, that what we're talking about are legacies and heritages of designing our governmental and political institutions to adjust to the dynamics of ecosystems. And so the topic of climate change is not new.
[00:30:30:05] Another thing I found was that for those scholars, that they were really looking at how climate change is sort of one and the same as colonialism. Colonialism is a form of oppression that seeks to curtail or seeks to lessen the degree of capacity for the group to adapt to change. And that's why colonial policies forced people on reservations. That's why they stripped them of their knowledge. That's why they make them feel that they're less than human. All of these things are meant to weaken one society for the benefit of the colonizing society.
[00:31:04:16] And so climate change and climate justice comes out of the idea and the history that colonialism paved the way in the 19th century for the fossil fuel industries through policies like reservations and later on boarding schools and through violations of treaty rights. Those policies then made it possible to have the sheer amount of fossil fuel industry in places like North America that could actually affect the climate system. And then because none of these laws, policies, programs, treatments of indigenous people have been pulled back by the US for Canada to any significant degree, they also are the same ones that are making it harder for indigenous people to adapt to the climate change impacts that are arising now, many decades, later from those extractive industries that were put in place a long time ago.
[00:31:57:29] So the idea that say a reservation might have been made to push indigenous people aside to make way for extractive industries and commercial agriculture, it's now the size of that reservation that makes it hard for that particular tribe to adapt to climate change, when a particular plant or animal's range moves outside of that reservation area. And so some of the indigenous scholarship is actually pointed this out, actually rehistoricizing climate change and climate justice.
[00:32:28:00] And just quickly, there were a couple of other things I noted too that were significant in this scholarship was that many scholars were not just looking at the issue of what do indigenous knowledge systems tell scientists about climate change, but they were saying, how is it that the resurgence of indigenous knowledge systems actually supports tribal communities? What does indigenous knowledge do for indigenous people? How do indigenous people actually cultivate their own knowledge systems for achieving the self-determination, the governance goals that they want and that they need?
[00:33:01:18] And then finally, there were issues I saw in the scholarship having to do with actually how we imagine the future with climate change. And this actually got into some more kind of literary and artistic areas. But I found that if you look at a lot of science fiction about climate change, non-indigenous people imagined those futures by a very rarely referencing indigenous people. You don't really see indigenous people in those futures.
[00:33:29:01] And so what I saw in some of the indigenous scholarship, that scholars and artists, whether they were making films or writing papers, were actually coming up with climate change futures where indigenous people are part of the leadership, where they're the key characters and actors, and futures in which we acknowledge that for us, as indigenous people, we're already living in a dystopia. That dystopia, the environmental dystopia, is not the future for us. It's now because we've already seen the loss of hundreds of plants and animals, fishes, insects, and ecosystems that our ancestors depended on. And so our science fiction is not about a future dystopia. It's about how we find those leaders, those characters-- and many of them could be non-human-- that will currently help us to break out of the current dystopian situation that we live in.
[00:34:23:19] And so for indigenous climate change scholarship, I was really trying to pay respects to the hard work of so many different scholars, which I hope motivates other scholars who want to do this work to realize, hey, you're part of the community here, and there's people that get where you're coming from and that want to see more of this scholarship in the future.
[00:34:44:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So we're almost at the end of the conversation. But we don't want to sign off before-- you know, you are a faculty at Michigan State. And therefore, you are teaching students who I would assume are primarily non-indigenous. So how do you talk to them? And how do you convey these issues to them? And there by extension, how do we convey them to an audience, like the Climate Conversations audience that is also primarily not indigenous?
[00:35:16:00] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: Absolutely. Great question. So in my teaching at Michigan State University, we're talking about specific classes, my approach is not just to introduce facts and histories about indigenous people, but to actually introduce indigenous pedagogy into the system of higher education.
[00:35:39:13] So one of the classes that I teach is called "Global Climate Change, Corrective Action, and Citizenship." And that class is very carefully designed. I worked very hard on the class.
[00:35:51:25] And the way that class is organized is there is a whole set of role play, games, design exercises, each student becomes part of a team that plays make believe that they're a global think tank that's trying to address climate change. And their particular client is, say, a nation or an organization or some other group. And so the whole semester, they do these games and role plays and design exercises. And they do a lot of artistic type of things as well. They have to have artistic materials and so on. And they build up, over time, knowledge about their client and then come up with recommendations.
[00:36:31:07] And the whole time, the environment is collaborative. And so students learn from each other. They learn from interpersonal interactions with the faculty.
[00:36:40:07] And we also do some lecture too. But what's interesting that I found is when you organize a class in this way, students actually ask you to lecture and take more out of the lectures when you did give them, because the lecture just becomes one part of the curriculum instead of a central part of it. And so I see these as indigenous approaches to pedagogy because they're actually about experience or learning from experience.
[00:37:05:02] On the other side of your question, just how do we teach people who are interested in climate justice activism about these indigenous histories and indigenous views and aspirations that are so often marginalized? And that continues to be a question that really doesn't have any easy answers.
[00:37:29:15] For students that come into the university environment, there is nothing in that environment that really resembles anything indigenous at all, whether it's how the buildings are built, how the classrooms are designed, the offices, the cultural protocols of academia, the grading system, none of this respects any of the indigenous heritage in those particular places. And then match with the issue that most universities have very few indigenous or allied faculty that know about indigenous issues relating to climate change, but also a range of other issues too, just compounds the fact that students have lack of access to adequate education on indigenous issues.
[00:38:14:00] And so I have, again, really worked to try to find ways to reach those students without having to do so much work that makes it impossible for you to recommend that somebody have a career in academia because it's so much extra work. And I don't get a chance to do this as much in the classroom. But what I have done is try to create events and opportunities on campus in which students can see very strongly, and in some cases rather forcefully, what it means to do scholarship in an indigenous way.
[00:38:52:10] And so for example in the spring, we had an event on the Anthropocene, which was part of a Mellon funded project that I'm part of with some colleagues at Indiana and Chicago and Notre Dame. And the two keynote speakers, one, Sherry Copenace, who's an Ojibwe elder from the Lake of the Woods area, gave an entire history Anishinaabe thought and Neshnabe views on the environment and morality. And that was the beginning keynote.
[00:39:23:29] And then the second keynote was Audra Mitchell, who's a specialist in looking at issues of colonization, settler colonialism, and how that affects environmental issues. And she then added this entire dimension of how the Anthropocene-- for a lot of indigenous people, and Andra's an allied scholar, but for indigenous people is an issue of colonialism and colonial oppression. And so the students came that, they were like, you know, we've not seen two keynotes like this that they just really framed the issues in ways that I think are amenable to a lot of indigenous perspectives. And that wasn't an opportunity they get a lot in their classes to have an elder and a scholar decolonization both as the keynote speakers.
[00:40:05:16] And so I always trying to do things like that as well to change the discourse and to change how we approach these issues in higher ed.
[00:40:14:04] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: That's great. We'll have to make sure to get links to any of those conferences or workshops or keynotes that you have. It sounds very inspiring to help us get a larger perspective on how scholarship could learn from indigenous approaches.
[00:40:32:06] Before we close, I wanted to make sure to ask, what gives you most hope about students today?
[00:40:39:02] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: I get the most hope from the fact that I've noticed more and more since I started out, formally and academia as a professor in 2009, that students today are putting their foot down far more harshly on obvious issues and problems than I remember when I started out. And I think we saw this with the Dakota Access Pipeline, but also the campus activism in the last couple of years about the diversity and justice of curriculum.
[00:41:11:21] And what really excites me is to see that energy, but also that courage that when you see something that's obviously wrong in the curriculum or that's obviously wrong in the world, that you not only say something about it, but you don't give up until the problem is addressed, and you don't allow other people to suggest that your concerns are not real or that they're overblown, because they're not overblown and they are real concerns.
[00:41:38:24] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: That's as good a place as any to think about the future. Thank you so much, Kyle, for sharing your thoughts. And we really look forward to engaging more with you and others on bringing an indigenous perspective from across the world to the climate justice work.
[00:41:58:10] KYLE POWYS WHYTE: OK, great. Fantastic to talk to you all. And keep in touch.
[00:42:02:15] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Same here. Thanks, Kyle. Really appreciate your time.
[00:42:06:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: There's so much knowledge in that.
[00:42:09:19] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: I feel like my perspective has broadened about 10 times listening to and talking with Kyle today, perspectives that I didn't even know I didn't have.
[00:42:19:26] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: It's the unknown unknown that is always the most important.
[00:42:23:12] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Right.
[00:42:23:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And if you, our listener, have any questions, comments, as usual, you can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment under the podcast.
[00:42:37:10] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Hope to hear from you real soon.
[00:42:38:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you so much. Bye bye.
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