I recently discovered a fascinating online project, “Native Perspectives on Sustainability: Voices from Salmon Nation,” run by Dr. David Edward Hall, professor of psychology at Portland State. The website is an off-shoot of his PhD research.
As indicated on the project website,
- Extensive research suggests that the collective behavior of humanity is on an unsustainable path (e.g., Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). More and more people are awakening to this reality and are beginning to pursue answers for a just and sustainable future. In the midst of this unfolding story are indigenous people across the globe, whose ways of life have and continue to be disrupted if not lost altogether. In the bioregion of Salmon Nation, there is a rich heritage and modern day presence of diverse indigenous cultures. Seeking to engage and more deeply understand Native perspectives, David Hall, Ph.D. conducted a series of interviews with contemporary Native leaders on the subject of sustainability, in terms of:
- * the meaning of “sustainability”
* visions for a sustainable future for their communities
* how to get there
- This project has been pursued with the belief that those whose ancestors have inhabited a place for countless generations may provide a valuable contribution to the dialogue on how to live in our shared home for countless generations to come.
The narrative linked above includes a statement that reflects the approach of the SHP as well:
- By integrating the multiple perspectives of all participants into one narrative, the extensive topic of sustainability is more thoroughly addressed. Each community represented by the participating leaders faces similar yet unique challenges. Specific ideas and actions expressed in the narrative may be more or less relevant depending on the specific historical, ecological, political and legal contexts of each respective community. Hopefully, this narrative articulates something of relevance to all communities, directly represented or not. . . . This narrative is intended to serve as a contribution to the conversation on sustainability and to encourage a more extensive and inclusive dialogue around the long-term interests of all people.
It’s an indication of how opaque one’s personal and professional bubbles can be that I had not yet become aware of Dr. Hall’s work, even though we’re engaged in such similar projects. He also has taught at least one course at PSU, “SySc 399U: Sustainability, Systems Concepts, and Indigenous Perspectives,” focused on exploring “the concept of sustainability from a systems perspective and from the perspectives of contemporary indigenous leaders, . . . to draw parallels between these two perspectives.”
I look forward to bridging the gap between our respective silos in the months to come, and to incorporating Dr. Hall’s research and resources into my future classes.
 David Edward Hall, “Sustainability from the Perspectives of Indigenous Leaders in the Bioregion Defined by the Pacific Salmon Runs of North America” (PhD, Portland State University, 2008).