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Exploring the sustainability practices of indigenous communities

“Each chapter brings out the ways the tribal and clan views differ from those of Western culture,” says Professor James C. Spee of the book he co-edited, which examines sustainability from the indigenous perspective. (Photo by Coco McKown '04, '10)

An insightful conversation with an Australian colleague led James C. Spee to conceive and co-edit Clan and Tribal Perspectives on Social, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability: Indigenous Stories From Around the Globe (Emerald Publishing Limited, 2021), a book that combines his scholarly interests in business and environment.

“In Australia, every course in every university must have some content that reflects the role of indigenous people,” says Spee, professor of strategic management, sustainable business, and entrepreneurship, with a joint appointment with the School of Business and the Department of Environmental Studies.

The book examines sustainability on all continents from the indigenous perspective and what it has meant for survival—socially and economically—across millennia. By shining a light on sustainability efforts from outside the global mainstream, the book illustrates how sustainable development can occur respectfully, as a collaboration between equals.

The book explores the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of tribes, clans, and indigenous cultures across national and global origins—something that took on renewed relevance during a pandemic that threatened the social and economic wellbeing on people around the world.

The collection of chapters are written by an array of experts, including members of clans and tribes, and touch on topics such as laws, practices, perspectives, and rights. In addition to serving as editor, Spee wrote a chapter, “Sustainable Relationships Are the Foundation of Tribal Clan Perspective.” Lawrence Gross, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair of Native Studies, Race, and Ethnic Studies at the University, penned the chapter, “The Resolution by the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation to Protect the Inherent Rights of Wild Rice.”

The book approaches issues using a triple-bottom line—people, planet, profit—and assesses the themes of wellness, politics, leadership, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. “Each chapter brings out the ways the tribal and clan views differ from those of Western culture,” says Spee, who has incorporated the book and its authors (as speakers) in his U of R sustainable business course. “This book gives readers a path for listening to diverse voices and learning from them.” 

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