Professor Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University


On Indigenous Resilience: Histories, Theories and Practices 


Indigenous peoples’ environmental and climate justice movements have long been among the most visible and impactful environmentalisms globally. While Indigenous peoples often refer to “resilience” as one of their environmental aspirations, little is still known or taught in academic, professional and policy spheres about the Indigenous intellectual traditions and histories from which Indigenous concepts of resilience arise. This presentation will provide an overview of Indigenous environmental studies as a field with ancient roots and contemporary theories and practices. Some of the key findings of this field are the different ways in which concepts similar to resilience are developed through studies of moral relationships, including responsibility, interdependence and justice. The presentation will show how this field presents important insights for academics, professionals and policy-makers who are interested in resilience or using resilience frameworks. The Pacific region has been an important location for Indigenous environmentalism focused on concepts of resilience, some recent examples including the legal victory of the Whanganui Iwi in Aotearoa to push New Zealand to recognize the Whanganui river as a legal person, the Inuit Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations Resulting From Global Warming Caused by Acts and Omissions of the United States, and the diverse actions and publications on Indigenous traditions of sustainable development organized by the Tebtebba Foundation (the Indigenous Peoples' Centre for Policy Research and Education). The presentation will discuss Indigenous resilience in this context as well as cover some recent research findings on how Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners interested in resilience can work together best. 




Professor Kyle Whyte is the Timnick Chair in the Humanities, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Associate Professor of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. His research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and science organizations, and problems of Indigenous justice in public and academic discussions of food sovereignty, environmental justice, and the anthropocene. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.