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"The land shows us the way": Indigenous peoples' strategies for coping with the Anthropocene.

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

As We Have Always Done (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)The Annual Facing the Anthropocene Luce Lecture welcomed Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and activist, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, to campus last week.  Dr. Simpson is a member of Canada’s indigenous Nishnaabeg people and has spent the last two decades “breaking open the intersections between politics, story, and song.”  The two-part program began with remarks from Simpson where she described how her work listening and learning from Nishnaabeg elders taught her to value the collective wisdom of the young, women, and the natural world.  Simpson then engaged in a wide-ranging conversation about environmental ethics with Duke Cultural Anthropology Professor, Christine Folch.  

Simpson effectively presented her message in a shared collection of three stories (two narratives and a stop-motion movie) along with a challenge to the audience to write a fourth.  Simpson’s “Radical Resistance” in the context of these examples is embodied by her characters unapologetically carrying on with the ways of the Nishnaabeg people in the face of colonization in the modern world.  These short stories also reflected the strength of women, children, and indigenous communities, whose wise voices have been historically marginalized in the Americas.   In her telling, Nishnaabeg heroes such as the “binoojiinh” (a gender-neutral child) and ancestral spirits of the earth, the trees, and the animals, act in concert with the environment to restore fertility and a sustainable way of life to a world ravaged by gentrification and urban planning. Dr. Simpson embraces a return to traditional Nishnaabeg teachings: a learning process inspired by listening to the environment or “the land shows us the way.”

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