Whyte, K. (2016). Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Edited by U. Heise, J. Christensen, and M. Niemann, pgs. 206-2015. Routledge.
Anthropocene discourse often describes futures using dystopian themes. I wondered how might some Indigenous peoples interpret such futures. While similarities are present given Indigenous concern with conserving native species, it is more accurate to claim that indigenous conservationists focus more on sustaining particular plants and animals whose lives are entangled locally, over many generations, in ecological, cultural and economic relationships with human societies. What is more, the environmental impacts of settler colonialism have made it so that quite a few indigenous peoples in North America are already no longer able to relate locally to many of the plants and animals that are significant to them. In the Anthropocene, then, some indigenous peoples already inhabit what our ancestors would have likely characterized as a dystopian future. So we consider the future from what we believe is already a dystopia, which frames how we approach conservation decisions today.