chapter  11
14 Pages

Strong Indigenous communities: Indigenous worldviews and sustainable community development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Keith James and Mark L.M. Blair, University of Arizona, USA

The theme of this chapter is that Indigenous worldviews need to serve as the foundation of Indigenous/non-Indigenous negotiations over attempting sustainable economic development. A case study of an economic development and regional-planning project among a group of Indigenous communities in Alaska, some non-Indigenous non-profit and for-profit organizations, and representatives of non-Indigenous governments (i.e., the state of Alaska and the U.S. federal government) is presented and used to support the value of participatory partnerships based on Indigenous perspectives. The planning effort was successful for Indigenous communities in that it: 1) maintained their cultures and lifestyles while; 2) adding to the economic opportunities available to community members. Those outcomes occurred because the values and worldviews of the communities guided the planning, yielding results in accord with the UN’s “triple bottom line” of economic development (World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987). The legal context in which Alaska Natives operate creates uncertainty in their ability to assert their goals and perspectives over those of non-Indigenous groups who covet (or feel the right to control) Indigenous lands and resources. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can, however, help counter the undermining of Indigenous rights created by national and state laws and policies, and economic globalization. The case illustrates how strong application of the UN Declaration by strong Indigenous communities can promote the triple bottom line of cultural preservation, environmental health, and economic development. It provides a model, for other parts of the world, for attaining economic development that is genuinely in accord with Indigenous rights.