Sealaska Heritage


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Free event to be offered virtually

March 29, 2021

(About the Lecturer) (Flyer)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will host a free lecture this Friday, April 2, on how Indigenous people around the world have been displaced from their ancestral lands in the name of conservation.

The lecture, Conservation Refugees: The Hundred Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples, will be presented by Mark Dowie and will focus on his book of the same name.

Since 1900, more than 120,000 officially protected conservation areas have been established worldwide, largely at the urging of five international conservation organizations. About half of these areas were occupied or regularly used by Indigenous peoples. Millions who had been living sustainably on their land for generations were displaced in the interests of conservation.

The Indigenous peoples' movement and conservation organizations have a vital common goal—to protect biological diversity—and could work effectively and powerfully together to protect the planet and preserve biological diversity, Dowie wrote. Yet for more than a hundred years, these two forces have been at odds. The result: thousands of unmanageable protected areas and Native peoples reduced to poaching and trespassing on their ancestral lands, or “assimilated” but permanently indentured on the lowest rungs of the money economy.

Dowie’s presentation will discuss such issues as differing definitions of “nature” and “wilderness,” the influence of the “BINGOs” (Big International NGOs, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy), the need for Western scientists to respect and honor traditional lifeways and the need for Native peoples to blend their traditional knowledge with the knowledge of modern ecology.

“When conservationists and Native peoples acknowledge the interdependence of biodiversity conservation and cultural survival,” Dowie wrote, “they can together create a new and much more effective paradigm for conservation.”

The presentation, scheduled for Friday, April 2, is part of a lecture series focusing on subsistence in Alaska Native communities and factors that impact traditional subsistence practices.

All lectures will be livestreamed at 12 pm Alaska time on SHI’s YouTube channel, and available for viewing on YouTube any time after the livestream (no account required).

This program is provided under the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program and funded by the Alaska Native Education Program.

About the Lecturer

Mark Dowie retired recently from the University of California Graduate School of Journalism where he taught science, environmental reporting and foreign correspondence. Previously, he was editor-at-large of InterNation, a transnational feature syndicate based in Paris, and before that he was publisher and editor of Mother Jones magazine.

From 1993-1995, Dowie wrote a critical history of the American environmental movement, which was released in April 1995 by MIT Press. The book, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of The Twentieth Century, was nominated for a 1995 Pulitzer Prize.

In 2004, he researched the 150-year relationship between transnational conservation and Indigenous peoples. That work was published with MIT Press in April 2009 under the title Conservation Refugees: The Hundred Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. And in August 2017, his book The Haida Gwaii Lesson: A Strategic Playbook for Indigenous Sovereignty was released by Inkshares Press.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,