OOS 29-8
How principles of indigenous economics support resilience

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 4:00 PM
327, Baltimore Convention Center
Ronald L. Trosper, American Indian Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The survival of so many distinct Indigenous peoples in the modern era results from many factors, including world views and the institutions, or operating rules, implied by those world views.  Given the resilience which promotes Indigenous survival, this paper analyzes some detailed mechanisms that have promoted this resilience, with an emphasis on economic institutions.  As people become indigenous to a place, they begin to rediscover the lessons that the people who lived there for a long time had already learned. Recent resilience theory has recognized a number of rules and practices that promote resilience; some of these are rediscoveries of Indigenous principles, and others are indigenous principles that could contribute to increasing the list of useful institutions  In particular, how do rules such as “leaders must be publicly generous,” ”status should reward good actions rather than material goods,” “everything is sentient,” and “land should not be for sale” (to pick some really distinctive Indigenous rules) contribute to decisions that enhance social-ecological resilience?  Do these rules make leaders accountable for the health of an ecosystem?  Is investment in high quality monitoring rewarded?  Are cumulative effects in space and time given high importance?


Requiring leaders to be generous is illustrated by the requirement of potlatch feasts on the Northwest Coast and by the behavior of hunting stewards in boreal forests of Canada.  When the net returns from a common pool resource have to be publicly displayed, monitoring the total value of a resource to the humans using it becomes possible.  If the good hunters are given status in return for sharing the fruits of their labors, then cooperation in the hunting activity becomes easier by providing incentives for the poor hunters to follow rules that enhance the productivity of a mobile resource.   These rules reduce the incentives for leaders to “rent seek”, because if such as the providers of infrastructure do use their privileged positions for personal gain, they find their status falls dramatically. In extreme cases, their  authority to “manage” a valuable resource may be removed.   If everything is sentient, including glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, then those entities are capable of retaliation for poor behavior on the part of humans; this enhances the importance of monitoring the actions of these powerful entities.   If land cannot be sold, its occupants also cannot leave, and they come to value long term sustainability.