Language, Culture and Understandings of the Environment: lessons for environmental policy and education


“Language, Culture and Understandings of the Environment: lessons for environmental policy and education”.
at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, U.S.A. and related events at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois as part of the “Project Millenium” Initiative.
April 16-18, 1999.
Dr. Luisa Maffi (Northwestern University/Terralingua);
Dr. Douglas Medin (Northwestern University);

This symposium took place in the context of “Project Millennium”, an educational initiative unfolding throughout 1999 at various museums and cultural and academic institutions in the Chicago area, with a variety of events higlighting several major themes in the biological and human sciences and the arts. One of these themes was the environment. In this connection, the symposium brought to the fore human relationships with the environment from several related points of view, and provided a space for interdisciplinary reflection and for drawing both philosophical and practical lessons for environmental policy and education. The event was co-sponsored by Northwestern University and the N.G.O. “Terralingua: partnerships for linguistic and biological diversity”. Funding was provided by Northwestern University’s Cognitive Science Program and Environmental Council.
The symposium convened a small group of experts, including indigenous experts, from different fields (anthropology, linguistics, ethnobiology, psychology, education, political science, economics, history, ecology, conservation, cultural advocacy) on the Northwestern University campus for three days of discussion of three related issues: (1) the relationship between understandings (mental models) of the environment and resource use, as well as the cognitive consequences of diminished intimacy of contact with the natural world, (2) cultural and group differences in the meaning and “valuation” of environmental goods and their implications for environmental decision making and policy, and (3) the complex interplay between biodiversity and linguistic and cultural diversity.
  1. First of all, it is becoming clear that groups and cultures that share a common environment and engage in similar subsistence activities may show very different behaviors vis-à-vis the local environment. For example, in Petén, Guatemala different ethnic groups practicing agro-forestry vary on a continuum from sustainability to dramatic destructiveness and show parallel and equally dramatic differences in folkecological understandings of rainforest. The close link between the ecological importance of a species and the likelihood that it will be protected by some groups suggests that different mental models of resources may play a causal role in environmental behaviors. Furthermore, differences in mental models of a resource may lead to misunderstandings and conflict. For example, the resentment on the part of majority culture members in the U.S.A. of Native American fishing and hunting rights may reflect the conflicting meanings associated with the “sportman’s model” of resource use and the Native American model. Even within the majority culture hunters and non-hunters may have different models of resource use and conservation. Another concern is that members of western, technologically-oriented cultures, as well as younger members of traditional cultures, have been undergoing a lessened frequency and intimacy of contact with the natural world. We know relatively little about the cognitive consequences of this devolution. Are abstract pro-environment attitudes sufficient to produce appropriate conservation behaviors in the absence of corresponding knowledge of plants and animals or values tied to more concrete contexts? Will these abstract values support behaviors that lead to sustainability?
  2. A related observation is that cultural history attaches different meanings to particular natural kinds. These meanings have strong implications for both valuation of environmental goods and inter-group conflict. For example, how do groups negotiate the fate of a species that is sacred for one group but not the other? How can sharing of knowledge and values facilitate conflict resolution rather than lead to exploitation? Attempts to place different kinds or entities onto a common scale of value have been notably unsuccessful. How can effective policy be established when different kinds of values are at stake?
  3. A third issue which in many ways integrates the first two is the interplay among linguistic, cultural and biological diversity. The world is facing a wholesale loss of the diversity of life at all levels: biological, cultural, and linguistic. Recent research has pointed to the interdependence between language, culture and the environment and to the interrelated causes and consequences of biocultural diversity loss. It is also increasingly recognized that such a holistic view of culture and nature has traditionally characterized indigenous and other local peoples having lived within the confines of, and in close contact with, their local ecosystems for many generations, and that this has contributed to sustainable use of natural resources. Yet, by and large the destruction of both natural and cultural habitats continues unabated, and indigenous and local peoples continue to be alienated from their lands and traditional knowledge. People in industrialized societies continue to appear largely unable or unwilling to grapple with the nature and consequences of these biocultural processes and to modify their behaviors accordingly, in spite of being themselves affected, materially and spiritually, by these same processes. There is a widespread sense that the destruction of biocultural diversity is proceeding much faster than societal ability to appropriately react to it — and faster than the ability of the ecosystems themselves to recover within a time frame commensurate to human needs, if these processes are not halted and reversed. How do we respond to this challenge? What do we do, in both policy and education, to advance the cause of biocultural diversity protection?
These are all key issues, on which debate rages in academic and policy circles alike. Even when scholars and practitioners share as their ultimate goal the protection and promotion of biocultural diversity, a broad gap appears to subsist between the ones with their theoretical frameworks and lengthy research protocols, and the others with their concrete aims and need for tools that work — and fast. Indigenous and other local peoples are not benefiting from this state of affairs, nor does environmental protection; and the general public largely remains in need of environmental education approaches that will promote real cognitive and behavioral change. For this reason, the symposium put a strong emphasis on discussion, beyond the presentation of formal papers. The symposium also afforded an opportunity for scholars and practitioners to try to reduce the gap between their respective moda operandi, as well as for dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous experts.
(See below for full symposium programme and presentation abstracts).
Two related events took place at the Field Museum: the panel discussion “When Culture Meets Nature: diverse views of hunting and fishing”; and the video screening “Nature and Culture: preserving the diversity of life”.
Panel discussion: When Culture Meets Nature: diverse views of hunting and fishing (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois; Saturday, April 17, 1999; co-organized by Northwestern University and Terralingua).
This panel tackled the implications of diverse cultural perspectives on the environment as they relate to hunting and fishing activities carried out by different cultural groups. Organizers: Northwestern University and Terralingua.
Dale Bowman (Sun Times)
Doug Cox (Menominee; Hilary Waukau Environmental Services Center)
Richard Hummel (Eastern Illinois U.)
Douglas Medin (Northwestern U.).
Video screening: Nature and Culture: preserving the diversity of life (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois; Sunday, April 18; co-organized. by Terralingua and Virtual Learn).
A series of videos on efforts by indigenous peoples from all over the world to preserve their cultures and the local environments.
  1. Pathways & Highways Over the Fields (Finland, Sámi) 28 min.
  2. A Thousand Years of Ceremony (U.S.A., Wintu) 37 min.
  3. To The Roots: A Maya Reunion (Mexico/Guatemala, Maya) 28 min.
  4. The Akha Way (Thailand, Akha) 25 min.
  5. Stolen Waters (U.S.A., Hawai’ians) 27 min.
  6. Southern Kalahari Bushmen Cultural Audit and Reconstruction (South Africa, Kalahari Bushmen) 12 min.
  7. Voices From the Talking Stick (Canada, Haida) 20 min.
(See below for detailed video programme.)
“Language, Culture, and Understandings of the Environment:
lessons for environmental policy and education”.
(Northwestern University, Evanston,Illinois.
Friday, April 16-Sunday, April 18, 1999;
co-organized by Northwestern University and Terralingua)
(See below for abstracts).
Friday, April 16, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.:
  • 8 a.m.: coffee and welcome.
  • 8.15 a.m.: Introduction: Luisa Maffi (Northwestern University/Terralingua) and Doug Medin (Northwestern University).
  • 8.30 a.m.: David Harmon (The George Wright Society/Terralingua): “Beyond Biophilia: what humans do with diversity”.
  • 9.05 a.m.: Cecil Brown (Northern Illinois University) and Eugene Hunn (University of Washington): “American Folk Biological Knowledge”.
  • 9.40 a.m.: coffee break.
  • 10 a.m.: Eugene Hunn (University of Washington): “Is There Evidence for a “Biodiversity Learning Module”? If So, What Does the Evidence Imply for the Teaching of Biology to Young Children?”.
  • 10.35 a.m.: Sheila Epstein and Claudia Greene and Martha Perdoza (Whittier Elementary School) and Lisa Bouillon and Louis Gomez (Northwestern University): “Environmental Education: a bridge to tightly couple school and county”.
  • 11.10-11.40 a.m.: Discussant: Carol Fialkowski (Field Museum). General discussion.
  • 11.40 a.m.-1.15 p.m.: lunch break.
  • 1.15 p.m.: Doug Medin (Northwestern University), “Comparative Folkbiology in Northern Wisconsin”.
  • 1.50 p.m.: Richard Hummel (Eastern Illinois University): “Hunting and Fishing for Sport: the sportmen’s model of environmental protection”.
  • 2.25 p.m.: Robin Gregory (Decision Research), “Valuation and Trade-offs: what’s taboo and what’s O.K.”.
  • 3 p.m.: coffee break.
  • 3.20 p.m.: Theresa Satterfield (Decision Research): “Narrative Valuation”.
  • 3.55 p.m.: David Messick (Northwestern University): “An Alternative Logic for Understanding Decisions in Environmental Contexts”.
  • 4.30-5 p.m.: Discussant: Norbert Ross (Northwestern University); general discussion.
Saturday, April 17, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.; 2-5 p.m.
  • 8 a.m.: Scott Atran (University of Michigan/CNRS), “Folkecology and Commons Management in the Maya Lowlands”.
  • 8.35 a.m.: Paul Friesema (Northwestern University): “Sacred Lands and Environmental Struggle”.
  • 9.10 a.m.: Jeffrey Wollock (Solidarity Foundation): “Land, Language and History: meditation on a 16th. century controversy”.
  • 9.45 a.m.: coffee break.
  • 10.05 a.m.: Luisa Maffi (Northwestern University/Terralingua), Gonzalo Oviedo (W.W.F.-International), and Anthea Fallen-Bailey (University of Oregon/Terralingua): “Indigenous peoples, cultural diversity, and W.W.F.’s ecoregion-based conservation approach”.
  • 10.40 a.m.: Manuel Lizarralde (Connecticut College): “Process, Problems and Potentials of Mapping Indigenous Peoples onto Their Territories and Natural Environments”.
  • 11.15-11.45 a.m.: Discussant: Alaka Wali (Field Museum); general discussion.
  • 11.45 a.m.-2 p.m.: break; lunch; transfer to Field Museum.
  • 2-5 p.m.: Panel discussion at Field Museum: When Culture Meets Nature: diverse views of hunting and fishing.
Sunday, April 18, 9-11 a.m.; 1-5 p.m.
  • 9-11 a.m.: wrap-up session; general discussion of educational and policy implications.
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Break; lunch; transfer to Field Museum.
  • 1-5 p.m.: Video screening at Field Museum: Nature and Culture: preserving the diversity of life.
Friday, April 16, morning session:
David Harmon (The George Wright Society/Terralingua) Beyond Biophilia: what humans do with diversity.
Drawing on the thought and writing of the biologist Edward O. Wilson and the philosopher William James, this presentation will explore the human response to diversity, both in nature and in culture. With James as a touchstone, I will first try to present a simple model of how people deal with the “world of difference” we live in. Then, expanding on Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis, I will argue that the human need to affiliate with living nature is supplemented (and sometimes supplanted) by the need for cultural diversity. Finally, I will suggest some ways to “close the diversity protection circle” so that both biodiversity and cultural diversity are valued, both by committed advocates and the general public.
Cecil H. Brown (Northern Illinois University) and Eugene S. Hunn (University of Washington) American Folk Biological Knowledge.
What do Americans know about plants and animals? Our project in formation focuses on one aspect of American folk biological knowledge, namely, how native speakers of American English go about and classifying living things. This is in the tradition of anthropological studies by such scholars as Brent Berlin, Ralph Bulmer, Harold Conklin, and Nancy Turner to mention only a few. Folk biological knowledge is not limited to classification and naming, but since investigation of such knowledge as held by Americans has barely begun, this would seem a logically appropriate initial focus for research. Some specific issues to be exa.m.ined include: (1) the taxonomic structure of biological knowledge, (2) the extent of knowledge possessed by Americans, and (3) how this knowledge is distributed (e.g., across individuals, social strata, ethnic groups, age groups, occupations, regions, time, etc.). In addition to contributing basic research on a topic of enduring interest in cognitive anthropology, findings will have implications for science education relating to biology, especially at primary and secondary levels, and for clinical studies of diseases such as Alzheimer’s that employ biological materials in neuropsychological testing.
Eugene Hunn (University of Washington) Is There Evidence for a “Biodiversity Learning Module”? If So, What Does the Evidence Imply for the Teaching of Biology to Young Children?
I plan to critically evaluate two categories of evidence, one, from cognitive psychological experimentation (e.g., various contributions in Hirschfeld and Gelman’s Mapping the Mind (1994); Atran’s evidence; etc.), and second, from ethnographic field studies, such as my work with Mixtepec Zapotec ethnobotanical “prodigies.”. Do children 3-15 learn to recognize “natural categories” of flora and fauna more readily that they learn categories in other domains? And, do they learn such categories more readily than adults? Is there a critical age effect? To what extent are these learning patterns peculiar to biodiversity categories, or do they simply reflect general maturational learning trajectories? If there is evidence for a special susceptibility to biodiversity learning in early childhood, can schools design curricula to enhance rather than impede the biodiversity learning process?
Sheila Epstein and Claudia Greene and Martha Perdoza (Whittier Elementary School) and Lisa Bouillon and Louis Gomez (Northwestern University): Environmental Education: a bridge to tightly couple school and county.
We will use the experience of a Chicago Elementary School in its attempt to connect its science literacy goals with the prior knowledge and experience of its students and families, many of which come from agricultural traditions in rural Mexico. The focus of the work in this school was understanding the scientific, economic and political problems that are associated with the pollution of their local segment of the Chicago River. We will present this as a case study that serves to illustrate how activity embedded in curriculum design can serve school curricular goals in a highly culturally sensitive fashion. By design, the curricular structure gives voice to diverse perspectives and vantage points on the environment. The case we present will highlight design techniques that can bring together perspectives as diverse as environmental science, political action, local urban economy, and the value of green space to community pride in urban settings. Our paper will be a collaboration of Northwestern researchers and teachers from the Whittier School in Chicago.
Friday, April 16, afternoon session:
Doug Medin (Northwestern University) Comparative Folkbiology in Northern Wisconsin.
There is considerable evidence for universal principles of categorization, especially for biological kinds. Against this backdrop, however, there may be variation as function of culture and experience that is consequential. This talk looks at a case study of categorization and reasoning in northern Wisconsin where majority culture and Menominee fish experts are compared.
Richard Hummel (Eastern Illinois University) Hunting and Fishing for Sport: the sportmen’s model of environmental protection.
Sport hunters and fishers insist that their consumptive use of wildlife is consistent with environmental protection, conservation, and sustainability. In the face of relentless criticism of their activities, huntes and fishers attempt to educate the public about the historic and ongoing contributions of hunting and fishing organizations to the abolition of market hunting in America, the establishment of rational “closed” and “open” seasons and the self-imposed taxation for game law enforcement, habitat acquisition, reclamation, and improvement. However, if the premises of the “animal rights” movement achieve enhanced public acceptance, hunting and fishing for sport will be increasing restricted, if not eliminated. Will the 21st. century see any resolution of this this political struggle?
Robin Gregory (Decision Research) Valuation and Trade-offs: what’s taboo and what’s O.K.
Much has been written about the questionable ethics of trade-offs when choices involve exchanges of money, on the one hand, and environmental, health, or cultural assets on the other. The intuitive appeal of terms such as “protected values” (Jon Baron) and “taboo tradeoffs” (Phil Tetlock) captures much of the spririt of this unease. On the other hand, recent advances in economics and the decision sciences have focused on expanding the domain of values under consideration to include many nonmarket and intangible concerns. These advances include survey work in environmental economics, group elicitation techniques in multiattribute decisionmaking, and the role of affect in judgment and choice. Interest groups also have pushed to broaden evaluation mechanisms to include a richer representation of environmental and cultural considerations as part of project and policy analyses. My talk will exa.m.ine the middle ground of the researcher and analyst who is seeking to incorporate non-monetary and non-commodity concerns into public policies and (a) knows that not everything can or should be brought into the sphere of analysis, but also (b) fears that what is not included will be ignored by decisionmakers. Examples will be drawn from ongoing projects in forest management, aviation safety, estuary clean-up, and hydroelectric power generation.
Theresa Satterfield (Decision Research) Narrative Valuation.
Increasingly it is recognized that environment-centered values are difficult to elicit from stakeholders. It may be that values are subconsciously held, privately defended or not fully formed in the mind of the stakeholder. Taking a cue from anthropologists, who argue that values are remembered and expressed in context-dependent narratives, and from psychologists and decision scientists, who contend that values must be actively constructed during the elicitation process, this paper explores the construct narrative valuation. Three linked research projects will be addressed. The first project considers the use of decision-pathway questionnaires to constructs something of a narrative about values and land management decisions while meeting the demands of policy makers for tools appropriate to large population samples. The second project discusses three possible frames for eliciting narrative-based value information. The value outcomes of these narrative elicitation tools will be compared to the outcomes derived from other widely used elicitation techniques. Finally, we will consider the possibility that there is something inherently different about elicitation frames or decision contexts which rely on the scene-dependent language of narrative as opposed to the rationalizing language of such things as cost-benefit frames. This is the idea that the very language used to deliberate land management decisions determines the [value] outcome of the discussion. We therefore compare narrative decision frames to logical-justificatory and cost benefit ones in order to consider what kinds of value and policy decisions come to the fore in each context.
David Messick (Northwestern University) An Alternative Logic for Understanding Decisions in Environmental Contexts.
Abstract not available.
Saturday, April 17, morning session:
Scott Atran (University of Michigan/C.N.R.S.) et al. Folkecology and Commons Management in the Maya Lowlands.
Three groups living off the sa.m.e rainforest habitat manifest strikingly distinct behaviors, cognitions and social relationships relative to the forest. Only the area’s last native Maya reveal systematic awareness of ecological complexity involving animals, plants and people, and practices clearly favoring forest regeneration. Spanish-speaking immigrants prove closer to native Maya in thought, action and social networking than do immigrant Maya. There is no overriding “local,” “Indian” or “immigrant,” relationship to the environment. Results indicate that exclusive concern with rational self-interest and institutional constraints do not sufficiently account for commons behavior, and that cultural patterning of cognition and access to relevant information are significant predictors. Unlike traditional accounts of relations between culture, cognition and behavior, the models offered are not synthetic interpretations of people’s thoughts and behaviors, but emergent cultural patterns derived statistically from measurements of individual cognitions and behaviors .
Paul Friesema (Northwestern University) Sacred Lands and Environmental Struggle.
Claims as to the sacredness of lands, or features of lands, as well as of objects, are increasingly part of the discourse in enviromnmental struggles. These claims are frequently advanced by American Indian people, and by groups working in concert with American Indian people, but they are also invoked by other people and groups seeking to preserve or protect some specific site or set of environmental values. Claims as to the sacredness or spiritual significance of sites are also resisted, as is the legitimacy of invoking sacredness as a consideration in environmental decisionmaking. These types of conflicts have important features in common including some very elastic meanings as to sacredness, and some specific constitutional restrictions on the use of criteria of sacredness as a basis in decisionmaking. But sacredness as a decision-making criteria keeps getting invoked through the N.E.P.A. process (the requirement that environmental impact statements be part of environmental decisionmaking) and through other complicated and fairly obscure legal requirements. The consequences of claims as to sacredness are quite unclear, but seem to represent a source of significant power for some native people on issues involving resources. This paper will consider the emerging experiences with invoking sacred claims as part of environmental disputes, and will consider some ongoing struggles, with one particular focus being upon a highly contested site in Georgia, where Creek Indians and some environmentalists are trying to resist the construction of a highway across an archeological and environmental site known as the Ocmulgee Oldfields.
Jeffrey Wollock (Solidarity Foundation) Land, Language and History: meditation on a 16th. century controversy.
In Mexico, there is a positive geographic correlation between linguistic diversity and biodiversity. It has been generally recognized that pre-conquest Native land-management systems enhanced biodiversity, while already within a few decades after the Conquest (1521) the systems imported from Spain had greatly reduced it. This paper originated as a meditation on the central controversy of the Spanish Conquest, epitomized by the famous 16th.-century debate between Bartolom de las Casas and Juan Gins de Seplveda, over the rights of the indigenous peoples of the New World: does it not follow that the question of the right to land (as ecological management) and liberty (as cultural continuity) has important implications for the maintenance of biodiversity and cultural diversity? While this question might have been addressed through a detailed analysis of political history, in this paper I am more interested to show what the effects of the Conquest, down to the present day, reveal about the connections between language, culture, and biodiversity. These connections are significant for current debates over the relationship of nature and culture. They are also relevant to discussions about the future of Mexico and other so-called developing countries.
Luisa Maffi (Northwestern University/Terralingua), Gonzalo Oviedo (W.W.F.-International), and Anthea Fallen-Bailey (University of Oregon/Terralingua) Indigenous peoples, cultural diversity, and W.W.F.’s ecoregion-based conservation approach.
The world’s biodiversity crisis became a major focus of scientific and public attention in the 1980s. Originally attributed to the negative impact of humans on the environment, the crisis is now regarded as a highly complex phenomenon that must be understood on the basis of a more nuanced evaluation of the interaction a wide range of variables. Research in various social sciences has demonstrated considerable cross-cultural variation in the environmental consequences of human behavior and a strong correlation between the geographical distribution of biological megadiversity and that of cultural and linguistic diversity. This research suggests that biological and cultural-linguistic diversity may be related through coevolution and that the causes and consequences of declining biodiversity may be linked to those threatening the diversity of human cultures and languages. This perspective has profound implications for conservation of both natural and cultural resources. The paper describes the ecoregion-based approach to conservation newly adopted by W.W.F. and steps being taken by this organization to incorporate in its progra.m.s the preservation of cultural diversity and the involvement of indigenous peoples in conservation activities. We will present a project focusing on the cross-mapping of indigenous peoples onto a map of the W.W.F.’s “Global 200″ conservation-priority ecoregions, to highlight the overlap between biological and cultural diversity in these areas. The continuing elaboration of W.W.F. guidelines for incorporation of cultural diversity considerations into ecoregion-based conservation will be discussed.
Manuel Lizarralde (Connecticut College) Process, Problems and Potentials of Mapping Indigenous Peoples onto Their Territories and Natural Environments.
The process of mapping a feature on a piece of paper is not as easy an accomplishment as it might appear to be. Maps are a reduction and simplification of a given reality. Mapping a group of people, in this case indigenous peoples, is even more complex. Since their locations and names may change from time to time and place to place, there may be great discrepancies between where they are and were located. In many cases, indigenous peoples are or were not recognized and were invisible on maps. With this invisibility, their rights were constantly violated. Another problem with the mapping of indigenous peoples is whether there is a common name used for and by them. In this paper, I will discuss the complexity of this process. However, it is important to map indigenous people as a way to recognize their rights and existence over the planet. Their role and interaction with their environment is critical for our future existence. Mapping them is an essential step to move toward a sustainable future.
Nature and Culture: preserving the diversity of life.
(Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois; Sunday, April 18;
co-organized by Terralingua and Virtual Learn).
Pathways and Highways Over the Fields. (Finland, Sámi) 28 min.
Writer/Director: Maijukka Pasanen
Camera/Editor: Otso Ovaskainen
Narration: Harry Bent
A holistic relationship with nature is reflected in the Sámi language and world view. In Upper Lapland reindeer herding remains an integral means of livelihood, but it is increasingly threatened by structural changes and the introduction of modern logging technology. Respect for the forest land engrained in Sámi culture and so clearly expressed through Sámi words, paintings, and joiku songs contrasts sharply with the chopping of old pines to sell as pulp.
Contact: Otso Ovaskainen
A Thousand Years of Ceremony. (U.S.A., Wintu) 37 min.
Producer/Director: Christopher McLoed
The Winnemem Wintus’ struggle to preserve their spiritual and ceremonial ways of life at Mt. Shasta in Northern California. Florence Jones is a healer who leads the Winnemem Wintus’ efforts to protect sacred sites, language, and healing traditions from the intrusions of new age spiritual practioners, private property interests, and the Forest Service. The film provides an intimate look into one Native community’s cultural survival, giving a rare view into the international struggle for sacred site protection by indigenous peoples.
Contact: The Sacred Film Project
P.O. Box C-151
La Honda, CA. 94020. U.S.A.
To The Roots: a Maya reunion. (Mexico/Guatemala, Maya) 28 min.
Producer/Director: Steve Bartz
Narrator: Martin Sheen
The historic journey of two Maya elders to meet distant relatives who live and farm within thriving rain forest. The Itzaj and Lacandones were among the last Maya groups reached by Christian missionaries who accompanied the Conquest. As a result, both groups have conserved their language and many ancestral customs and beliefs that link them to a tradition at least 2500 years old. Through the Maya expressing themselves freely in front of the camera, the film presents pressing Indigenous issues of respect for elders and their knowledge, conservation, and land rights for Indigenous survival.
Contact: Shenandoah Film Production
538 G Street
Arcata, CA. 95521. U.S.A.
(707) 822-1030
The Akha Way. (Thailand, Akha) 25 min.
Producer: Yellowcat Productions and Sharon Hainsfurther
Director: Sharon Hainsfurther
Editor: Mary Flannery
The Akha people of South East Asia have undergone many years of forced transition. They find their way of life in the mountains increasingly under attack. Poverty has surged to incredible levels and access to farmland and water is being lost. A people without a country or traditional lands, they must farm land that they can find to live on till they are forced to relocate again. The Akha are repeatedly exploited by governments, businessmen and zealous missions who see them as easy prey for their agendas. In many cases they lack the most basic in human rights.
Contact: Akha Heritage Foundation
1586 Ewald Avenue S.E.
Salem, OR. 97302. U.S.A.
Stolen Waters. (U.S.A., Hawai’ians) 27 min.
Executive Producer: Elizabeth Ho’oipo Pa Martin
Producers/Directors: Puhipau, Joan Lander, Na ÌMaka o ka’A´ina
Water is life. In Hawai’i and around the world, it is a precious and limited natural resource. Because of this, water is also power. The film documents the battle over the water in Wa´ia´hole Ditch on the island of O’ahu, where Ka´naka Maoli (Native Hawai’ians) seek to reclaim the natural strea.m. waters that were taken in the early 1900s by sugar plantation owners. These waters previously supported large taro-growing communities. Stolen Waters explores the Kanaka Maoli tradition and law regarding water use, the delicate balance between the health of the streams, the ocean, and the people.
Na ÌMaka o ka’A´ina
P.O. Box 29
Na´’a´lehu, Hawai’i 96772-0029. U.S.A.
Tel: (808) 929-9659 Email:
Southern Kalahari Bushmen Cultural Audit and Reconstruction. (South Africa, Kalahari Bushmen) 12 min.
Producer/Camera: Ashwen Budden
Editor: U.C.T. Television
Since before recorded history the Bushmen have lived in a manner that was linked to the land and its ecology. Over the past century the social and political climate in southern Africa has seen the forced removal of the Bushmen from their homelands and the suppression of their langauges and culture. This short video presents a new audit of cultural resources that began when one elderly woman stepped forward to speak for the preservation of the language and culture of her people.
Contact: I.P.A.C.C. (Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee)
5 Long St.
Mowbray, Cape Town 7700
South Africa.
Tel: +27 21-686-0193
Fax: +27-21-685-4223
Voices From the Talking Stick. (Canada, Haida) 20 min.
Producer: Carol Wallace
Director: Todd Tyarm
A revealing voyage of past, present, and future described by the Haida people. Maintaining the oral tradition of their culture, the narrators — Robert Davidson, John Yeltarzie, and Woodrow Morrison — embark on a journey of four vignettes. The film shows how art, culture, the environment, and family are part of the Haida identity. The mesmerizing voices of the narrators and the engaging cinematography echoing the artistic tradition so important to the Haida heighten awareness of a culture similar, yet often overlooked.
Voice Pictures, Inc.
P.O. Box 36
Brentwood Bay, B.C., Canada V8M 1R3.

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