Indigenous knowledge, known as local knowledge, traditional science or traditional wisdom, is context-specific knowledge that has helped Indigenous communities survive and thrive throughout time. Most Indigenous knowledge is situated within broader cultural traditions, making it empirical and local as it is orally transmitted through imitation and demonstration. It is generally the consequence of practical engagement in everyday life.
Consequently, many practices, beliefs and values, such as oral narratives, tales, songs, customs and approaches to healing and birthing, and death rituals, are shared by almost all Indigenous communities worldwide. As such, many Indigenous peoples contend that their relationship with the land shapes how the cultural, spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being of people and communities are expressed. This profound relationship with the landscape is prominent in many cultures across the African continent.
While current ecological, social, and health models are still dominated by Westernised thinking, many Indigenous peoples embrace a holistic approach to resource management, health and illness of our natural and built environments.The longstanding connection with the land through forests, wetlands, rivers,coastal areas and mountains provides Indigenous cultures with a sense of identity, belonging and well-being. This is cultivated by all individuals engaged in keeping the human-nature relationship in balance as part of their daily life and wellness, experiencing the natural environment as home, formed by their knowledge and worldviews.
In this regard, good buildings, outdoor spaces, and places were never more necessary to address the health and well-being imperatives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the face of development intensification and population growth.
The practice of landscape architecture must ensure that the critical culture-nature relationship is retained and respected. Incorporating local Indigenous values and approaches enables an integrated design outcome that offers new opportunities for living with nature and supporting health and well-being. Apart from contributing to inter generational knowledge transfer, the design of outdoor spaces should ensure that social and environmental factors remain paramount.
To achieve this, we must collectively understand different contexts, the unique characteristics that make up our natural and built environment, and how these affect and enable culturally expressive design solutions. Positively collaborating with Indigenous peoples and embedding their values into the design of our landscapes can offer unique opportunities.
A thriving landscape is where people have the power and ability to interact with the land on physical, culturally relevant and spiritual levels.Designing with Indigenous values in mind can develop nature-centric strategies that support and empower Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to interact with the landscape, supporting and benefiting from it in an infinite reciprocal relationship.
This AJLA issue addresses the custodianship role of Indigenous peoples and local communities towards the land. The articles illustrate how, when prioritised, Indigenous knowledge has helped designers/planners address environmental changes, uphold oral narratives, protect traditional healing, promote ecological health, advance resource management, and foster participatory design strategies.
Indigenous knowledge extends well beyond the environment and expresses values and principles about human behaviour, ethics and relationships as it examines the connections between people and the landscape. A symbiosis between Indigenous knowledge and Western paradigms offers new opportunities for living with nature and enabling culturally expressive design solutions that support healthy and thriving environments.
Combining Indigenous knowledge with Western values can make knowledge systems work for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.