Indigenous Knowledge & Sustainability 2021 Virtual ConferenceEDWARDSVILLE - A series of virtual events featuring nationally recognized Native American scholars will advance research and education in indigenous knowledge and sustainability in the region during the upcoming collaborative conference, “Indigenous Knowledge & Sustainability – Food,” being held Wednesday-Sunday, Oct. 6-10.

The conference is sponsored by programs at multiple regional institutions, including SIUE’s Native American Studies Program, Center for Spirituality & Sustainability, College of Arts and Sciences, and Office of Research and Projects; the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL); The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis; the Saint Louis Zoo; and Missouri Botanical Garden.

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According to Gregory Fields, PhD, distinguished research professor in the SIUE Department of Philosophy, the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified indigenous knowledge as a resource for “overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food security, and biodiversity conservation, and combating desertification and land degradation. The 2019 report “Climate Change and Land” recognizes Indigenous peoples as partners in coordinated efforts worldwide to establish conditions for climate-adaptive development pathways, which include issues of food security and health.

Robin Kimmerer, PhD (Citizen Potawatomi).“A number of regional institutions conduct high-level work in indigenous studies, sustainability, and their intersection,” Fields noted. “By combining efforts and resources, this collaboration of sister-institutions in the St. Louis region aims to advance Native American concerns and contributions to environmental research and practice. Together, we can offer a variety of events for researchers, practitioners, students, and the public to engage with issues of urgent concern to Native people and to all people: the health of the environment and food security.”

Attendees will learn about contemporary research in Native thought and sustainability from leading Native scholars and other specialists representing the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Topics range from Native botany, agriculture, and foodways to Native philosophy. The daytime session is on Thurs. Oct. 7 with Electa Hare-Redcorn, MSW (Pawnee), explores how Native women are changing land policy. Philosopher Kyle Whyte, PhD (Citizen Potawatomi), George Willis Pack Professor of Environment and Sustainability, speaks Thursday evening on sustainability and ethics.

Headlining the conference at 7 p .m. Thursday, Oct. 7, is the Harris Conservation Forum, hosted by the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at UMSL and the Saint Louis Zoo.

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Among the speakers is Robin Kimmerer, PhD (Citizen Potawatomi), a plant ecologist at State University of New York (SUNY-Syracuse) College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Kimmerer, a distinguished teaching professor at SUNY, is the founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs that draw on the wisdom of both Indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Kimmerer is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass and other works.

Tiffanie Hardbarger, PhD (Cherokee Nation).“Repairing ecosystem structure and function must be complemented by restoration of a reciprocal relationship to land,” states Kimmerer. “Synergy between Indigenous and scientific knowledges can guide the process of healing both land and relationship, through biocultural approaches, leading to reciprocal restoration and justice for the land.”

SIUE will host the following two virtual sessions, with dialogue to follow:

  • Friday, Oct. 8, 12-1:30 p.m.
    “Native Foods, Native Peoples, Native Pollinators”

    Ed Spevak, PhD, Curator of Invertebrates and Director, Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, Saint Louis Zoo
  • Sunday, Oct. 10, 12-1:30 p.m.
    “Indigenous Foods & Sustainability

    Tiffanie Hardbarger, PhD (Cherokee Nation), Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Okla.; and Elizabeth Hoover, PhD, UC Berkley.

Each event requires registration and is free and open to the public. For event details and registration, go to

For more information, contact Fields at or call SIUE’s Center for Spirituality and Sustainability at 618-650-3246.

For resources and readings, please visit SIUE’s event website: Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainability.

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