Capability development for the re-indigenization of humanity to mother earth

Williams, Lewis (2018). 'Capability development for the re-indigenization of humanity to mother earth' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


In recent decades, new colonialisms consisting of an increasingly aggressive ‘economics of extraction’ driven by growing global corporate power and Western scientific materialism have resulted in unprecedented human and environmental degradation, including exponential rupture from traditional lands and cultures of Indigenous peoples and accompanying human and interspecies dislocation and trauma. At broader levels, modernity has ultimately resulted in the ‘colonisation’ of perception and consciousness, and a corresponding overemphasis on materialism, previously unimagined. This cauterisation of relationality, is now widespread in our systems of education and scientific inquiry.


Countering these developments are calls from a wider ranging number of disciplines for sustainable development strategies — including the incorporation of Indigenous ontologies and knowledge systems — which fundamentally challenge and transform our current global economic-cultural order. This is necessarily collective work across cultures, sectors and disciplines. Such approaches demand deep relational shifts in understanding and ways of being between different interest groups at macro, mezo and micro levels; ranging from forums for global governance to community and interpersonal relationships. A critical contextual issue is the way in which Indigenous and non-indigenous groups understand the concept of society and human roles and responsibilities. For example research by Canadian Indigenous scholars on the different lived meanings of citizenship pertaining to Indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples, suggests the relational responsibilities of Indigenous peoples to human and other than human life contrast from human rights discourses derived from state centric forums premised on capitalist and Eurocentric norms of humanities’ precedence over nature (which are the lived realities of the majority).


Through its focus on the establishment of intergenerational capabilities, this paper is a response to these developments. It locates Sen’s view of human agency as the ‘ability to live a life that one has reason to value’ within the context of Indigenous Resurgence and sustainable development in ways that centre the leadership of Indigenous peoples in the revitalization of Indigenous ontologies towards strengthening all peoples’ re-connection to the earth as a living being.  The paper’s emphasis will be on the development of necessary capabilities for this relational shift as these relate to the articulation of intergenerational resilience (within an Indigenous Life-World view) with respect to both Indigenous populations and those no longer indigenous to place.  In this context, intergenerational resilience refers to ensuring to the best extent possible that the next generation of human and other than human relations have what they need to flourish. It includes the concepts of reciprocity and connectivity, including knowledge transmission, between humans and between humans and our other than human relatives.


Drawing on research undertaken in Canada and Aotearoa in pedagogical and social action settings, this paper explicates the development of three critical capabilities for intergenerational resilience: Reaching Deep, Reaching Out and Reaching Through. Significantly it addresses the capability development issue within collective action of ‘onto-epistemological rupture’ - the divergence or incongruence between shared understandings of the nature of reality and being, and subsequent actions between different cultural and generational collectives – that inevitably arises from divergent agency imperatives which are anchored within the diverse political and temporal ecologies often occupied by groups. Out-lining and distinguishing between four paradigmatic approaches to agency and capability development being undertaken in Canada and Aotearoa, examples and key questions will be posed that enable capability development for intergenerational resilience across groups.


Works consulted

Cajete, G. (2000). Native science: Natural laws of interdependence.

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Corntassel, J. (2012). Re-envisioning re-surgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, 1(1), 86–101.


Hancock, T., Spady, D., & Soskolne, C. (Eds). (2015). Global change and public health: Addressing the ecological determinants of health. The report in brief. Working Group on the Ecological Determinants of Health. Retrieved January 1, 2017 from


Sen, A. (2001). Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press: U.K.

Stewart-Harawira, M. (2005). The new imperial order. Indigenous response to globalization. Wellington: HuiaPublishers.


Tuck, E., & Yang, W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization, Indigeneity and Society, 1(1), 1–40.


Williams, L., Roberts, R., & McIntosh, A. (Eds). (2016). Radical human ecology: Intercultural and Indigenous approaches. London: Routledge. (Previously published by Ashgate Publishing Group, UK, 2012).


Williams, L., Bunda, T., Claxton, N. MacKinnon, I.  (2017). A Global De-colonial Praxis of Sustainability – Undoing Epistemic Violences between Indigenous Peoples and those no longer Indigenous to Place.  Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, Special Issue on South-South Dialogues: Global Approaches to De-colonial Pedagogies, Published online: 03 October 2017


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