1. Regenerating: Indigenous Conditions for Cultural Continuity

Learning objectives

  • to explore conditions for cultural continuity that enable the longevity of Indigenous cultures,
  • to recognize regeneration as a power, a philosophy, and a condition for cultural continuity.


Chapter 1 explores the question: What do designers of climate change adaptations need to know about the conditions for cultural continuity that enabled Indigenous cultures, the cultures with greatest longevity, to endure?

The adaptive capacity of Indigenous cultures can be attributed to agentic actions to enact Indigenous conditions for cultural continuity that provide ethical guidance and have proven effective over millennia. I focus on only six conditions.

  1. Living the Cosmology of the Land is a complex interweaving of Land, cosmology, and philosophy. Cultural cosmology refers to a culture’s theory of its origins in timespaceplace, derived from long-term inhabitation of a place. It survives for millennia once it is established in the stories, ceremonies, rituals, signs, songs, and symbols of a culture. It is deep knowledge that shapes a culture’s symbols, contributes to meaning making, and unifies a culture around a common philosophy. Cosmologies are Land-based and thus are as varied as bioregional landscapes.
  2. Relating with Land is grounded in deep affective relational networks and is based on a philosophy of interconnectedness or nonduality between and among all Beings that cohabit Land with humans. The ethic of care is enacted in relationality and expressed in collective practices of caregiving. Leanne Simpson (2014) refers to relationality as a system and an “intelligence” conducted with respect, responsibility, and generosity (p. 13):
  3. Regeneration is a power, a principle, and a condition for cultural continuity. The six conditions for cultural continuity are not discrete categories but are tightly interwoven as a regenerative way of life. As a power, regeneration co-exists with Modernity’s power of domination but may not be perceptible to Modern humans. As a philosophy, regeneration is a way of life guided by an onto-ethico-epistemology, cosmology, and metaphysic. Regeneration occurs in a cosmology of spiraling time.
  4. Sharing applies the ethic of care to distributing resources so that no Being is left behind. Indigenous peoples reciprocate the Land’s bounty by practising generosity through gifting economies, including the potlatch, balhats, and ceremonial give-aways, not out of obligation or exchange, but out of gratitude (Collison, 2010; Robertson, 2012; Anderson, 2016; Simpson, 2017; Hill, 2017). Cosmological narratives frequently provide ethical instructions for expressing thankfulness and taboos for actions based on greed.
  5. Remembering cultural memory is learning and transmitting the knowledge of the Ancestors across generations in intentional ways. Cultural knowledge is transmitted through various media, including stories, songs, and ceremonies that use shared gifts of language and symbols that contribute to a collective identity (LaRocque, 2011; Metallic, 2015; Simpson, 2017).
  6. Welcoming Difference refers to intentional relationality that respects uniqueness and draws on difference to strengthens the pluralistic fabric of the community, in contrasts to coloniality’s fort logic that defends against difference. The word queer disrupting coloniality that imposes European gender and sexual binaries and hierarchies through colonial policies (Wilson, 2015; Simpson, 2017).

Many First Nations communities are agentically preparing to survive Anthropogenic Climate Change by reclaiming their languages, refreshing Land-based knowledges, living their Land-based cosmologies, reclaiming food sovereignty, rematriating, and strengthening support for children and mothers. These preparations rely on cultural memory.

Suggested reading

  • Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake (2011). Dancing on our Turtle’s back: Stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation, resurgence, and a new emergence. ARP

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