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Beth Rose Middleton

An indigenous political ecology re-centers indigenous ways of knowing the land as the foundation for discussing the ways in which climate change (among other socio-ecological issues) is both a political–economic–environmental problem and an epistemic–spiritual problem. Uniting perspectives from American Indian Studies and political ecology, an indigenous political ecology approach foregrounds indigenous epistemologies and asserts decolonial frameworks rooted in indigenous experiences, histories and land-based experiences. Such an approach is articulated here in reference to climate change, with mainly US-based examples, but is relevant internationally. An indigenous political ecology is distinguished by at least the following four elements: (1) attention to ‘coloniality’ or the ongoing practices of colonialism (such as the continued displacement of indigenous peoples from their lands and lack of recognition of indigenous self-determination); (2) culturally specific approaches that reframe analyses in keeping with indigenous knowledge systems; (3) recognition and prioritization of indigenous self-determination, as expressed through indigenous governance; and (4) attention to decolonizing processes that explicitly dismantle systems of internalized and externalized colonial praxis. The Marxist or post-structural thinking beloved in conventional political ecology is de-centered, and an indigenous framework derived from indigenous jurisprudence, story, art, language and ceremony becomes the primary ordering system within which intersecting ecological, political and economic factors are understood, with due attention also given to such factors as scale, differentiated populations and time.