Political Ecologies

 Timely interventions that examine the power relations between Indigenous actors and the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

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Native Ecologies: A Deep History of Climate Change

Funder: British Academy, Global Professorship Programme

People: Professor Gregory Smithers

Native Ecologies explores how threats to our well-being posed by climate change can be addressed by drawing upon Indigenous knowledges rooted in the deep past. The project compares two ecologically important regions transformed by colonialism: the homelands of the Cherokee in the Appalachians of the United States, and those of the Ngarigo and Walgal peoples of the Great Dividing Range in Australia.

Using settler and Indigenous sources, it maps a ‘genealogy’ of Indigenous ecologies in order to construct the first deep history of a set of Indigenous responses to fluctuations in climate. Follow Native Ecologies research as it unfolds on Instagram and learn more about Professor Smithers’ research from his website.

A sample of work related to Native Ecologies includes:
“Native Ecologies: Environmental Lessons from Indigenous Histories,” The History Teacher 52, no. 2 (February 2019): 265-90

“Renewing Sacred Fires: The Cherokee People and the Shifting Frontiers of Settler Colonialism,” Journal of the West 56, no. 4 (Fall 2017): 36-47

“Beyond the “Ecological Indian”: Environmental Politics and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Modern North America,” Environmental History 20, no. 1 (January 2015): 83-111

Case Study featured by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (2022)

Water Cultures in Conflict at Pebble Mine, Bristol Bay, Alaska

Funder: Leverhulme Centre for Water Cultures

This project applies an interdisciplinary lens to investigation of one of the world’s most emblematic water and environmental conflicts, using it as an index to inform future debate and decision-making. 

Pebble Mine is the second-largest gold deposit in the world and if exploited, will yield up to $500 billion. However, it is also at the headwaters of two of the five major river drainages that supply Bristol Bay, the world’s largest salmon run. Salmon underpin around 75% of all local jobs and the subsistence lifestyles of many Alaskan Indigenous peoples. The United Tribes of Bristol Bay strongly oppose the 10 billion tons of toxic waste they say the mine will generate, waste that will need to be treated in perpetuity. 

Drawing upon canvassed and crowd-sourced interviews, as well as corporate, legal, NGO and tribal documents held at the University of Juneau, it brings approaches to resources as articulated by Indigenous leaders, mine and resource workers, state and federal officials, corporations, environmentalists, NGOs and community groups into critical and creative tension.

Research Programmes

Diplomacy and Treaties

International collaboration revealing globally significant cultures of diplomacy between the Crown, the Haudenosaunee and their neighbours in North America.

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Resource Use and Environmental Futures

New research on the roots of American Republican environmentalism, Canada’s green future, and sustainability in the space sector.

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Digital Storytelling

Digital resources that involve the public, advance research, energise teaching, and drive knowledge exchange, built in partnership with the UK’s foremost research software engineers.

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Political Ecologies

Timely interventions that examine the power relations between Indigenous actors and the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

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Globalising Archives, Museums, and Heritage Sites

Connecting significant national collections with their global Indigenous histories.

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New Treatied Spaces

Projects in development

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