Story | 23 Aug, 2019

Indigenous Perspectives on Sacred Natural Sites

WCEL members Jonathan Liljeblad and Bas Verschuuren co-edited a book featuring indigenous voices and indigenous perspectives on indigenous sacred sites.

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Photo: IUCN

"Indigenous Perspectives on Sacred Natural Sites: Culture, Governance and Conservation" seeks to support efforts to redress the marginalization of indigenous voices in conservation discourse by promoting indigenous perspectives with respect to sacred natural sites. While the work of entities such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) have sought to recognize indigenous concerns, the existing literature on sacred natural sites is largely written by non-indigenous authors. In keeping with ongoing international efforts to foster greater engagement between indigenous and non-indigenous viewpoints, this book seeks to foster greater self-expression of indigenous perspectives regarding treatment of the sacred and its protection and governance in the face of threats from various forms of natural resource exploitation and development.

The book provides an assembly of authors who represent indigenous custodians discussing how they view and treat sacred sites. It thus helps global audiences see a range of indigenous perspectives demonstrating similarities and differences in definitions, interpretations, and governance approaches regarding sacred natural phenomena. The volume contains case studies encompassing North and South Dakota, to others located in Australia, Canada, East Timor, Hawaii, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Each chapter includes an analytical introduction and conclusion written by the editors to identify common themes, unique insights and key messages. The book is therefore a valuable teaching resource for students of indigenous studies, anthropology, religion, heritage, human rights and law, nature conservation and environmental protection. It will also be of great interest to professionals and NGOs concerned with nature and heritage conservation.

About the Authors

Jonathan Liljeblad is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Law (CoL), and a member of several IUCN bodies: the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL); the Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA); and the Specialist Group on Indigenous Peoples, Customary and Environmental Laws, and Human Rights (SPICEH). Jonathan holds a PhD and JD, both from the University of Southern California. Jonathan was born under the name Nanda Zaw Win, and is a member of the Pa’Oh people of Shan State, Myanmar.

Bas Verschuuren is an Associate Researcher at the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He is Co-Chair of the IUCN CSVPA and Programme Coordinator for the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative.