The Efficiency of Values-led & Place-based Environmental Management of Indigenous Communities

Have you ever wondered why landmarks under Indigenous stewardship are so much more efficient with rich flora and fauna? Here’s an idea.

Indigenous, place-based communities have developed an environmental learning that was passed onto them by their ancestors. These ancestors had developed a sustainable way of tilling their fields, harvesting and settling in sustainable relationships with the new environment. This knowledge, the so-called traditional ecological knowledge is being passed onto next generations, carried on while adjusting to always new circumstances. Place-based societies like indigenous communities live strongly connected to the local environment, they respect its boundaries and know that their (human) well-being is directly related to the health of the environment. This translates into a responsibility to be the guardian of nature, which in the worldview of the Māori is nothing less than a brother or sister. This is because humans, plants and animals descend from the same source, Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and Rangi-Awatea (Sky Father). In doing so, their relatives from nature form a fundamental part of their identity.

Place-based societies build their practices strongly and explicitly upon values such as relatedness, respect and reciprocity. They are the source of all appropriate conduct and behaviour. Policies are implemented to back them up to remain maintained. These societies dismiss overexploitation of natural resources and engage in all possible efforts to preserve and protect all places and living beings from potential damages, thus create a safe space for flora and fauna humbly honouring all the gifts they are able to receive from it. 

So it is that place- and value-based approaches from indigenous communities represent a learning opportunity to regions where sustained environmental relationships were either disrupted or are not yet existent. Taking indigenous approaches into consideration allows a learning and understanding that, when adapted to the local context, will fundamentally and significantly leverage environmental management in any country. It sounds so easy in theory but it so hard in practice. The essential requirement is a different, let’s say ‘new’ mindset that favours unity instead of separation, one that comes close to the indigenous worldview.

One that enables an absolutely necessary and ‘new’ concept of human-nature relationship.

Humanity today is facing novel problems with environmental causes and effects surpassing current knowledge. This suggests a synergy of all knowledge sources in order to tackle a global ecological and socio-cultural crisis – together.


  • Artelle, K. A., J. Stephenson, C. Bragg, J. A. Housty, W. G. Housty, M. Kawharu, and N. J. Turner (2018). Values-led management: the guidance of place-based values in environmental relationships of the past, present, and future. Ecology and Society 23(3):35.

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