The “Ecological Indian” and the Environmental Humanities

Perspectives on human-environment relations

From its earliest days, the scholarly interest in indigenous populations has included a strong focus on the human-environment interrelationship: the strong connection that indigenous communities have been considered to have with the environment has been a guiding principle for many researchers. Is this notion of the “Ecological Indian” (see Krech 1999) still around? How can the recently emerged field of environmental humanities, which deals with deep “nature-culture” entanglements, respond to this question? Moving from the current UN definition of indigenous peoples, stating that “Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment” we invite scholars to gradually move upstream to the early years of social sciences and scholarly exploration.

Within the current discussions on climate change, indigenous knowledge is considered as a benchmark for further reflections upon human-environment relations in a changing climate. What is the role of past and present scholarly representations in producing and reproducing the stereotypes of local communities as “ecological Indians”? To what extent may the academic, political and indigenous ways of representing the human-landscape relations coalesce? Is there a way of framing indigeneity that is detached from the notion of close ties with the environment? These are some of the questions we invite participants to address within this stream in the form of panels with research presentations, as well as in debates and artistic expressions.

Stream organisers: Otso Kortekangas and Dmitry Arzyutov.