The indigenous world view looks at humans as being part of a circle of life rather than at the top of a pyramid, superior to all other life on earth. Matthew Hickey is Mohawk from the Six Nations First Nation and and works at Two Row Architect. In his address to the Ontario Associations of Architects at their annual conference this week he accurately pointed out how our pervasive 'pyramid shaped' world view has resulted in so much waste and careless practice in contemporary western post colonial culture. As an example he pointed toward the colossal wasted efforts as urbanizing the mouth of the Don River as Torontonians did historically, then spending billions of infrastructure dollars today fixing the problem and re-naturalizing it in order to restore the natural flood proofing processes. Matthew also pointed out that this world view has also led to humans wasting 30% of all food produced while billions go hungry.
Matthew's presentation was part of a conference session called "Many Voices in Harmony: Indigenous Storytelling Through Architecture and the Allied Arts" moderated by Eladia Smoke of Smoke Architecture. Other presenters included Danny Roy and Rebecca Baird. Danni is an Intern Architect and Planner at Brook McIlroy and a member of English River Dene Nation in Treaty 10 territory and Cree-Métis from the northern community of Sakitawak (Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan). Rebecca is a Nehiyaw Cree/Métis Artist.
What does this idea of being a part of a circle mean for the way we live and shape the places we live? North America is in the process of a huge shift (a sea change in fact, to reference the origin of this blog's name) toward carbon reduction and improved sustainability and the indigenous peoples who's land we occupy have a lot to offer to sustainable design. We would do well to pay attention.