Indigenous Perspective on Climate Change and Decolonial Learning

The Annual Lecture on the rights of indigenous peoples highlighted the importance of acknowledging traditional knowledge and aligning indigenous voices with policymaking and research.

On February 17th 2023, Ranjan Datta from Mount Royal University delivered the Annual Lecture on Rights of Indigenous People. The keynote address focused on the topic “Indigenous perspective on climate change, challenges and solutions: a decolonial learning journey”. The event was organised by the Centre on Law and Social Transformation (LawTransform) in collaboration with the project “PluriLand: Theorising Conflict and Contestation in Plural Land Rights Regimes”; Bergen Global, Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET); and Global Research Programme on Inequality (GRIP). A panel discussion followed the keynote, with Jebunnessa Chapola (Mount Royal University), Ragnhild Freng Dale (Vestlandsforskning), and Shayan Shokrgozar (CET)as discussants, and moderated by Lara Cortes, the Coordinator at LawTransform.


Photo: Jack French
Photo: Jack French

During the lecture, Dr. Datta discussed the colonial history of climate change and the challenges it has created for indigenous communities in countries such as Canada, Bangladeshi among others. He emphasised the importance of acknowledging traditional knowledge, language and stories as important sources of knowledge, and adopting a relational perspective when working with indigenous communities. Dr. Datta also highlighted the need for a decolonial theoretical framework, which involves lifelong learning, unlearning, and relearning.


Dr. Datta spoke about his use of indigenous methodology in research, which involves unlearning current methodological principles and relearning from the community’s perspective. In his previous work, Dr. Datta employed land-based theoretical frameworks, community-led research, traditional storytelling, and reflective learning, among other methods. Dr. Datta further underlined the importance of respecting and honouring indigenous knowledge, practice and working from an anti-racist perspective.


Drawing on his current work with indigenous communities (First Nations i.e., Cree and Kainai) exploring local perspectives on climate change, Dr. Datta highlighted how the communities attribute climate change to a disconnection from the land and the loss of traditional knowledge. This has far reaching consequences affecting various dimensions of their lives such as their heath and traditional food systems. According to Dr. Datta, the communities are convinced that the solution to climate change is already present and involves incorporating indigenous ways of life into policy as well as using alternative energy sources. Dr. Datta emphasised the need for collaboration between all levels of government and local communities to solve climate change challenges. Most importantly, indigenous knowledge keepers ought to be included from the start of research projects and education.




During the panel discussion, Jebunnessa Chapola, Ragnhild Freng Dale, and Shayan Shokrgozar shared their perspectives on the topic of indigenous rights and climate change. They discussed the need to centre indigenous voices and knowledge in policy-making and to work towards decolonisation of knowledge systems. They emphasised the importance of community-led research and the need for collaboration between indigenous communities and researchers. Examples were drawn from Norway, India, and Canada – illustrating how large-scale energy production projects entail reduction of grazing land, whilst adversely affecting the food systems as well as way of life of the indigenous people. One of the prevailing arguments by the panel was that rather than increasing energy production, the solution could be to reduce consumption.



The Annual Lecture on the rights of indigenous peoples highlighted the importance of acknowledging traditional knowledge and aligning indigenous voices with policymaking and research as well as demonstrated the need to continue working towards decolonisation of knowledge systems and ways of knowing.