Indigenous Models of Development
Thanks to the travel grant awarded by MAFRA, I was able to attend and contribute to the Models of Indigenous Development conference that took place in Chiapas, Mexico in 2011. The conference was an amazing opportunity to take a critical look at colonial approaches to indigenous planning and development. We also shared information regarding indigenous models of development that communities are implementing. Graduate students from EEUU, Canada and Mexico universities shared insights associated with indigenous knowledge and ways to decolonize our actions and thoughts ingrained in the education system, government and society. Students and professional planners shared their experiences working in the field. Based on these personal experiences we discussed solutions and different approaches to understand ways of implementing development projects within indigenous communities.
We visited indigenous groups including Zapatista communities to witness successful examples of indigenous systems of governance, education, health and food security. For example, Zapatista communities are developing co-ops where everyone has a share in the coffee production system and we saw that families still plant “La Milpa” or the equivalent of the traditional three sister planting combination of squash, beans and corn. The conference was an excellent environment to re-think our position on these matters and to bring more accountability to our studies and the work of professional planners. I really think these are the kind of discussions that should be promoted in academia and at the government level in Manitoba. In Manitoba there is a need to change the negative perception of indigenous peoples so exchange programs, conference and open discussions are excellent opportunities to non-natives to start a decolonization process. At the conference, I had the opportunity to present my video titled “Harvesting Hope in Northern Manitoba Communities”. Harvesting Hope tells the stories of Aboriginal peoples struggling to access healthy food in Northern Manitoba communities. Despite the grinding poverty, isolation and many other barriers to accessing healthy food, people in Northern communities are growing hope. The video was very well received and most of the speakers, students requested a second view and some copies for further distributions. I believe that the information shared at the conference will transcend and improve our understanding of indigenous cultures.
This article was written by Vanessa Lozecznick. She is the Northern Healthy Foods Initiative Project Coordinator for the Northern Association of Community Councils. She is currently completing a video looking at intentional, sustainable communities in Manitoba.