Day 5, Stream 1

Indigeneity and Decolonisation

A Provocation about Healthy Roots
A Story of Hope Through Growing Kai with Indigenous Wisdoms

Keynote Address by Pounamu Skelton

Posthuman rights struggles and environmentalisms from below in the political ontologies of Ecuador and Colombia
David Jefferson University of Canterbury

How do we remap the settler-colony? Encounters between Māori cultural mapping, expert knowledges and multi-functional landscape design in Aotearoa NZ
Ritodhi Chakraborty and Hirini Matunga
Lincoln University

Thanks to Margaret Forster and Laura Pereira for acting as Discussants for this panel.

Laura's response

Margaret's response

Day 5, Stream 2

Convivial Placemaking

Let’s start with nature connection: Practicing, sharing, learning and trying to understand it
A digital roundtable discussion led by Dr. Vitalija Povilaityte-Petri

Thanks to Juliana Mansvelt and Sarah Osterhoudt for acting as Discussants for the roundtable. Read Sarah's comments here and listen to Juliana's response below.

To respond to the Presentations, leave a reply in the comments section below.
If you would like to include an audio or visual reply, email this to before October 9.

Hone Morris is the Chair of the day 5 discussion.

Comments 13

  1. Tēnā anō tātou katoa e piri mai nei ki tēnei wāhi o te huinga tangata, huinga kōrero me te huinga whakaaro hoki e pā ana ki te mātauranga o ngā iwi taketake, me tēnei mea te unu whakataiwhenua. Salutations to all of you who have arrived at this space of collective humanity, collective narrative and collective thought concerning indigenous knowledge and what we term decolonisation.

    Ki a koe te ino o Tītohea maunga, o Āti Awa, ki a koe Pounamu, nei te mihi kau ake mōu i para i te huarahi mō tēnei rā otiia mō tē kaupapa nui whakahirahira nei. mōu hoki i whakatakoto i ōu mātauranga i tukua iho mai i tō hākui.

    An important presentation covering the comparative perspective towards kai (food) pre-colonisation of Aotearoa and how we are exposed to the present day perspectives. Poumanu reveals foundational concepts of kai, growing and procuring kai undertaken by her ancestors and how she and her own whānau (family) are revitalising those practices kai that kept her ancestors healthy.

  2. Posthuman rights struggles and environmentalisms from below in the political ontologies of Ecuador and Colombia.
    A comprehensive discussion by David Jefferson looking at the Colombian and Ecuadorian situation regards to resource extraction and alternatives by the indigenous communities to these destructive practices. David looks at the concept of Pluriverse and Plurinationalism and its position in the constitutions of the two countries. Great examples of the indigenous movements to combat the hegemonic struggle intertwined with the concept of Buen Vivir – Good Living and the way this phrase is used by government and ecologists.
    The presentation expands its central theme to the indigenous communities of Ecuador empowering their indigeneity through various activities to fulfill their understanding of Buen Vivir principles by conserving their knowledge of the forest and creating their own localised water projects such as water reserves.
    David discusses the Colombian approach to Buen Vivir. David reveals a real variation from Ecuador’s comprehensive activities to a sparser action in Colombia’s rural areas after the many years of random violence and internal struggle displacing indigenous communities. Discussion around reforming practices to “seek a higher quality of life” for farmers (campesino), for the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, with a focus on women and their care-taking. The FARC movement and peace agreement post conflict is discussed allowing the indigenous communities to return to their displaced lands to regenerate the ecosystems and creating employment opportunities. Examples are given and the positive outcomes are discussed in depth. Alienation, diseases and compensation. Nature being recognised, like the Whanganui River as a living subject. I will leave to you all to view to this presentations concluding remarks. An excellent presentation.

  3. Remapping the Colony
    He kitenga kanohi, he hokinga mahara, he koanga ngākau. Seeing a face reminds us of previous times that warm the heart.
    Ko koe tēnā Hirini ko te mahara ki te wā haere tahi ai tāua ki te Kura Tamatāne o Ahuriri ko ahau mai i a Tangoio, ko koe mai i a Bay View. Nei te mihi atu ki a kōrua ko Ritodhi otiia kōrua nō Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki.
    This presentation dives into cultural mapping from a Māori perspective in Aotearoa New Zealand linking it to the concept of plurality of knowledge systems and indigenous justice. It explores mapping land as the means by which indigenous land was stolen. Check out the Mauriora Systems Framework and the examples Hirini uses to explain and support his and Ritodhi’s presentation. Real tension between Mātauranga Māori towards whenua and European systems towards land can be felt as you view this presentation.

  4. Convivial Placemaking
    My ancestors of Aotearoa lived intimately with the rhythms and moods of the taiao (environment) This presentation discusses place conviviality and nature with these collective perspectives.
    Nature connection – environmental challenges
    Existential spiritual connections – experience the world in which we live in
    Nature strategies city of Manchester – biodiversity, green infrastructure – mutual respect humans, places, connections, developing trust and building confidence
    Forest Belgium – nature’s well-being effects
    conviviality with all living beings
    Sri Lanka Montreal – community gardens
    Juliana discusses these points comprehensively so enjoy.

  5. Kia ora. First off, thank you for including us in this session. Secondly, thank you to all the discussants and the Chair for the wonderful and supportive comments. I apologize for the length of our submission, but, I realized that the most effective format to present our work, would be through a conversation. And, as is evident from the video, Prof. Hirini Matunga’s experience, wisdom and care has helped me understand some of the ongoing historical engagements against colonial subjugation in Aotearoa.

    I do want to address some of the questions that the discussants proposed, especially the ones from Dr. Pereira about plural knowledge production and the life of such knowledge beyond the academy. But first, I want to highlight a cautionary caveat.

    Power as an entity emerges from and is managed through a process that makes its sharing, re-distribution and even reimagining incredibly difficult to achieve. The struggle of peasantry against feudal land management or industrial agriculture, the struggle of feminists to expose insidious myths of biology or the battle against the unending darkness of caste and race based discrimination are all unfinished, compromised often by the very tools forged to deliver emancipatory goals. In recent years decolonization in many it’s pedagogical, political and conceptual avatars has emerged as a project of solidarity, to both challenge and reimagine our world. But, this notion, this struggle is anything but new. The roots stretch back to the conquest of Tenochtitlan or the arrival of European ships in Hispaniola – the 16th century that gave rise to the enduring myth of European superiority. As many have pointed out, the greatest miracle of the modern world is the fact that the communities that were traumatized, plundered, beaten, their lands ravaged, their ecologies tamed, have managed to endure. For me, this is the single greatest story of human perseverance, an act of resistance with dignity that is generationally vibrant. Therefore, wielding this truth tempered blade of decolonial thought and action, comes with an acknowledgement of this history and the responsibilities that come with it. However, decolonization is being hijacked and co-opted into projects, movements, scholarship as a metaphor, as a symbol of reconciliation, which allows those that still remain in power to retain such control. I said at the starting that this was a cautionary tale and therefore, we need to be very careful when it comes to negotiating and nourishing the paradigm shattering potential of Decolonial thought. Our conversations of liberation cannot be, should not be held hostage by the extractive tendencies of the neoliberal academy, of algorithmic science and of hyper capitalist markets. Decolonization cannot be a mere metaphor, just like colonization wasn’t and isn’t. My grandparents pushed their bullock cart across the emerald rice fields of the Bengal delta in the dying years of WW2. All around them lay emaciated humans, lands stripped bare of its fecundity and animals dead of exhaustion. This is what Churchill’s wartime policies, built on 150 years of colonial ideology, did to us. Even as he was siphoning off Bengal grain to the western front he was removing access to food and land for Bengalis. 3 million died in the process. The rivers of the tidelands were clogged with the blood of my people. This is not a metaphor. So, when we pick up the mantle to address the destruction of our multispecies worlds, decolonization, both conceptually and materially, has to embody that history and not be a mere ‘trend’ or ‘flavor of the month’, that global north scholars use to get tenure and development agencies use to check boxes of equity and, fascist, ethno-nationalist political groups use to achieve their supremacist goals.

    I apologize for this, but in light of recent events across the world, this point needs to be reiterated.

    Coming back to the comments made by the discussants. I would like to address a couple of questions raised by Dr. Pereira
    She asks what is the work that we can do to popularize these concepts (co-produced knowledge) and bring some of these researchers on board?
    As Dr. Pereira rightfully points out it is quite difficult for many scholars and researchers to break out of the disciplinary silos. This situation is usually (but not always) more pronounced in the natural sciences, especially in research which uses more positivist paradigms that inadvertently (or knowingly) reproduce the reality of a Cartesian/Newtonian world. I would say this can be addressed in three ways.

    1) Research and hiring focused on ‘translators’: Nayanika Mathur in her wonderful essay on climate knowledge production talks about ‘climate translators’ ( I think this is a useful heuristic to use when thinking about how we can democratize knowledge production. While traditionally (atleast since the advent of the modern research university) there has been a focus on supporting and ‘creating’ scholars who remain firmly entrenched in the discipline and in a way ensure its survival and prove its ‘uniqueness’ and how it adds to our overall understanding of the universe. While this fits neatly with the model of the neoliberal university, where diff departments fight for relevance and funds, such a culture of knowledge production is an anathema for addressing both the problems of artificiality of the scientific worldview and also the very real lack of paradigmatic imagination and plurality. However, if we are serious about plural knowledge production then we need to focus on hiring individuals who are translators between disciplinary worlds. Especially, since, if you do even a cursory review of co-production of knowledge case studies you find that often the biggest issue is the inability of the collective to communicate with a common language and the fairly underdeveloped systems and processes of dealing not simply when ideas converge, but more importantly when they diverge.

    2) Creating process: In a significant number of collectives that I have engaged with there is this ‘edge of the map’ feel about the journey between values and ideas (often more abstract) and the processual elements (very literal). Therefore, if you see engagements between scientists and IPLC for anything from CC to NRM to heterogenous economies, at the design phase there is a lot of space for presenting values, ideals and aspirations (showcasing the cosmology), however, the engagement thereafter drops off, often starkly absent during the analytical phase. This is an exclusionary process. Engagement with IPLC should not wax and wane based on a processual notion of ‘what their knowledge is good for’, since this is inherently hierarchical and fixes categories which are hard to break in the future. So, it is vital that we find ways of forging tools that can help us create analytical and processual elements which don’t remain in the abstract realm. What we need then is knowledge equity which consists of : empirical justice (what we use to create) , analytical justice (how we think about that) and representational justice (how we choose to present and disseminate the outcomes).

    3) Mythologies of Science: I believe a history of science, or an STS course should be made mandatory for students going through the academy. The notion that science is objective truth, whose pursuit will bring us salvation, is not just false, but it’s also dangerous. Given the rise of post-truth politics there is a real anxiety within science and scientific practitioners to double down on mathematics or statistics or algorithms to sanctify their process, but in this pursuit hundreds of worlds that don’t align with scientific determinism are marginalized ( This is different from science denial whose roots remain in very different historical and socio-cultural moments. Therefore, demystifying science, making it appear fallible, pointing out its limitations and encountering its deep held axioms with cosmological richness of indigenous thought is critical today. Especially since in many instances IPLC are acutely aware of the ruinous impacts of state and market, but are loathe to interrogate the science that made it all possible. Additionally, encountering the limits of science also makes space for knowledge co-production to happen in spaces where the power hierarchy has been at least partially dismantled.

    I feel certain collaborative like IPBES have started embodying this culture of knowledge, but it is still quite rare. I do feel that knowledge for the sake of knowledge remains a privileged pastime and communities on the ground want to learn about material value added to their lives and lands, and projects which can do so, are usually the ones most successful in facilitating both plurality and equity.
    I am wrestling with such ideas in my current work and would love to talk more with anyone who may have some insights.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to engage with so many wonderful speakers and ideas and I wish everyone a great rest of the conference.

    1. Kia ora Ritodhi and your succinct pertinent narrative in responding to Dr Pereira. So true that indigenous communities regardless of centuries of suffering suppression and colonisation have endured as with my us here in Aotearoa. Your three suggestions of ways to which researchers can ‘break out of their disciplinary silos’ give real guidance and suggestive pathways. Here in Aotearoa we are beginning to accept Mātauranga Māori as a valid field of knowledge through the intimate relationship that my ancestors forged with the environment. Recognising, listening to and adopting the foundational principles of indigenous communities values towards the rhythms of the environment can only but teach us how to regenerate and protect nature and control the changing climate. Ngā mihi nui.

  6. I had two questions for David Jefferson about the development of new “posthumanist human rights” jurisprudences in Ecuador.

    1. The presentation mentioned a few examples where these new legal approaches have worked to the benefit of indigenous communities, but I was curious if there were also cases where these arguments were rejected or resulted in a narrowing of the constitutional provisions you mentioned. I ask this in relation to the conference theme of conviviality, and the interesting way in which the Ecuadorian legal system is becoming a site for multiple ways of adjudicating rights based conflicts. Thinking from a critical legal perspective, the dangers to me that exists are 1) rights are still interpreted through a liberal framework, which means there is always the potential they are weakened or strengthened as the jurisprudence develops, 2) that rights claims might be weaponized in a way that undercuts the broader spirit of the original constitutional provisions, and 3) that a rights-based ontology might not fully capture the distinct cosmovisions of certain indigenous groups. I suspect ethnographic work would’ve opened up more space to explore about these questions, but I am still curious if you had any initial thoughts based on the research you have completed.

    2. What is the broader political story of these new forms of rights claims? In what ways have non-indigenous Ecuadorians responded to these new kinds of claims and what can their responses tell us about the relationship between these legal frameworks and a broader sense of conviviality within the borders of Ecuador? If non-indigenous Ecuadorians have responded negatively to the granting of collective land rights, and even the granting of nature rights, does a tension emerge between politics and law? And if so, how can such tensions be resolved, or, does this new form of rights claims actually exacerbate social conflict rather than lead to convivial social and political relations?

    1. Kia ora Brandon, great questions and your legal perspective with possible risks. I look forward to David’s response to may shed further light on how we can re-balance life’s expectations regards the redressing of past imbalances as is happening here in Aotearoa. Though not perfect here in Aotearoa there are real cases and real situations where statutory power was weaponised to take away land, language and identity. The Remapping The Colony discusses this question very well so David may have similar examples. Ngā mihi.

    2. Kia ora Brandon,

      Thank you for your interest in my presentation and for posing thought-provoking questions about how posthuman human rights in Ecuador can be rendered appropriately convivial.

      Foremost, I want to acknowledge my agreement with your assertion that rights are generally interpreted within a liberal legal framework, meaning that they can be expanded or contracted over time (although note that Ecuador has a civil law system in which stare decisis does not apply). I also agree with your concern that rights claims can be weaponised in ways that undercut the spirit of the 2008 Constitution. It is important to reiterate that our aim is not necessarily to advocate for or against the utilisation of rights-based approaches to advance “posthuman” or “convivial” interests, but rather to demonstrate how Indigenous and local peoples in Ecuador (and Colombia) are taking advantage of the availability of rights claims as vehicles to realise their collective life projects. In other words, our argument is not normative, but rather grounded in the observation of rights-based claims-making by subaltern social movements.

      It is certainly true that even while several Ecuadorian judicial decisions have delivered victories to Indigenous plaintiffs who invoked the 2008 Constitution to allege violations of the rights of nature and new categories of human rights (eg, the right to free, prior informed consent), other verdicts have illustrated how the State can similarly rely on these constitutional rights to bring claims against Indigenous and local peoples for engaging in customary activities through which they derive their livelihoods (eg, small scale “artisanal” mining or fishing). It is also clearly the case that the constitutionalised version of concepts like sumak kawsay / buen vivir favours dominant Ecuadorian Indigenous cosmologies (especially Quechua) over those of other, more marginal groups.

      These issues have been discussed by other scholars who argue that the constitutional recognition of the rights of nature and other “biocultural” rights in the 2008 Constitution represents a universalist perspective, and that indeed, the construct of rights itself is inextricable from a Eurocentric liberal legal tradition. While we do not want to undermine the continued relevance of the colonial legacies at play here, we also find it interesting that our own and others’ ethnographic work suggests that diverse social movements in Ecuador (and Colombia) are using the tools of liberal jurisprudence to carve out space for the realisation of local visions of conviviality, expressed through human relations with other species and territory and grounded in an ethics of care.

      Your question about how non-Indigenous Ecuadorians have responded to posthuman rights claims is an interesting one, which I do not feel prepared to answer authoritatively without first conducting additional research. However, I can say that it appears that the kind of tension between politics and law that you theorise has indeed been present in the Ecuadorian social fabric for some time. This was the case well before the enactment of the 2008 Constitution, when throughout the 1990s and early 2000s diverse Indigenous and non-Indigenous movements recognised that the absence of appropriate legal protections (rights) for Indigenous lifeways was harmful and inappropriate. Today, it is possible that the locus of the tension may be shifting, but I think that it is too early to say definitively whether this is the case. To my knowledge, non-Indigenous Ecuadorians have not protested recent judicial decisions that have given substance to posthuman rights claims to any significant extent, though this would be an excellent topic for future investigation.

  7. Kia ora anō koutou i piri mai ki tēnei whārangi whakaaturanga. Salutations to you who have visited this presentation page. Please feel free to leave any comments regarding any of the presentation, opinions or any thoughts for the future in these crazy times.

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this day of presentations and discussion. As I still try to come with just what conviviality is, it is great to hear different perspectives. The connection with nature resonates easily, the connection to indigeneity makes sense. In terms of my search for more of a definition of conviviality, I was attracted to Katriina’s comment on “Holding space for each other” and I’d add on at a human and non-human level, and with consideration of the reciprocity created by interactions and the synergy that might be achieved through that conviviality. Whether that be through processes of inclusion, exclusion, tension or harmony.

    I was fascinated by David Jefferson’s comments of legal structures/provisions within indigenous settings and practices. It seems right to me that here in Aotearoa New Zealand some of our environmental taonga such as rivers, have been given the legal status of a person, and wonder how widespread this practice is. Margeret’s response and Pounamu’s keynote (along with many other presenters throughout this conference) highlight how indigenous communities have such a deeply connected relationship to the land and nature, and wonder whether recognising this connection and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role is one avenue for reversing the destructive decolonisation processes that so many indigenous communities have experienced over time and place.

    I also love maps, so seeing the remapping of contested landscapes, is exciting. Maps are reflections of perspective and power, so it seems most appropriate for communities to show their stories, connections and features of significance in diverse ways. ‘Remaps’ certainly seem like an effective tool for capturing convivial narratives.

    1. Kia ora Heidi, yes, being a researcher that leans heavily on my ancestral connection to land and the perspective of rivers, mountains, lakes and the ocean being spiritually real relatives assist the mind in seeking solutions to how best pave a pathway of regenerating the mauri in caring, protecting these energies, these other ancestors. Ngā mihi

    2. Kia ora Heidi,

      Thank you for your comments, and I am glad that you found my presentation useful in considering how the extension of legal personhood to non-human beings might operate in jurisdictions outside of Ecuador and Colombia, including Aotearoa New Zealand. In brief, the expansion of legal rights to non-human species and ecosystems remains relatively rare at the global level, although national statutory and judicial precedents and proposals can be found in countries ranging from Bolivia to the United States to Uganda to Australia. There is an international civil society movement that advocates for the enactment of rights of nature or “ecocentric” laws that has been growing over the past decade or so, and it includes many Indigenous participants although in my view it is still largely driven by non-Indigenous activists and legal scholars and practitioners (see, eg, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance for more information)

      It would be very positive to see greater momentum and uptake of Indigenous-led proposals for how to reimagine the law in a more convivial or ecocentric manner, which of course would need to be expressed in locally meaningful ways. In my current research, I am examining how greater protections for taonga plant species and kaitiaki in taonga species may be enacted in Aotearoa in the future. I am focussing specifically on the proposed reform to the Plant Variety Rights Act, which is currently before Parliament. There is certainly much that can be done to strengthen te ao Māori in the laws of Aotearoa New Zealand, and to give more attention to contemporary socioenvironmental struggles in legal education in this country.

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