27 June 2021

After 1492: The Nature of the Damage (UWI Symposium on Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Sustainability)

On Monday, October 12, 2020, it was my special honour to participate as the Featured Speaker at a symposium hosted at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad. The symposium was co-organized by the Faculty of Law and the Santa Rosa First People's Community and it was titled, "Our First Peoples: Leading Us Toward Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Communities". The timing of the event was pertinent: held on the 528th anniversary of the entry of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean, it was also timed to coincide with "The First Peoples' Day of Recognition" and "Heritage Week," with activities running from October 9-14, 2020. One of the most impressive features of this wonderful event was that it involved a live gathering of Indigenous representatives from across the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and North America.

My feature address was titled, "After 1492: The Nature of the Damage". The presentation was cautious and sceptical about the sudden intrusion into the region of notably foreign narratives about "environmental sustainability" and the assumption that there must be "Indigenous perspectives" ready-made and waiting for the arrival of this narrative. I alerted those present to the dangers of a Green Imperialism and Green Structural Adjustment by pointing to the historical and geopolitical context in which this narrative has been granted prominence by powerful political and corporate interests.

The focus of the presentation was on three dimensions of Indigenous knowledge that I think have gained new prominence, and even new urgency, in the present so-called "pandemic": one involves the long-standing question of how we manufacture problems for the world by adhering to clearly flawed dichotomous frameworks that separate humans from nature, and set the two in opposition. The second concerns the need, in the case of Trinidad, to draw inspiration, strength, and practical solutions not just from Amerindian Indigenous knowledge, but from what we might call the Exogenous Indigenous—peoples from Africa and India who brought with them not just some implements, and even some seeds, but also a wealth of agricultural, horticultural, and herbal knowledge, much of which has survived and blended with other knowledge systems in the Trinidadian context. The third, is the recurring and still unresolved issue of food security, or food insecurity, a problem laid bare in the sun by the current "pandemic".

The event was followed by a joint appearance by Chief Ricardo Bharat Hernandez and myself on Tony Fraser's radio programme on Power 102 FM on October 14, 2020.

All of the files for these two events follow below: a flyer for the symposium; the program of the symposium; a video showing my presentation alone; the complete proceedings of the symposium (which can also be viewed on Facebook); and, a podcast of the joint radio interview on Power 102.

Flyer for October 12, 2020 ... by Maximilian Forte

Conference Program, "O... by Maximilian Forte

After 1492: The Nature of the Damage


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