More on Resilient Villages

More wisdom on creating resilient communities that will stand the test of time from one of my favorite thinkers, John Robb of Global Guerrillas. In Indian Country, we should be looking toward or traditional clan and tribal structures for mutual support. This is necessary for our long term survival. Our tribes have always known this. This is what has allowed us to survive famine, drought, and war. Lately I believe we’ve been losing this.

Also, investment in a “ground up” economy is preferable to a “big project” based economy. The “big project” economy is one that is designed around one or two industries or businesses that employ the majority of the community. Examples of this in Indian Country would be gaming, resource extraction (mining, timber, etc,) and large scale tourism operations. The tendency across America is for people to sit around waiting for the government or big business to “create jobs” of the “big project” variety. Detroit is a great example of the faults of this form of economic development. An economy based on hundreds of small workshops employing mechanics and engineers coalesced into a few large automakers. Though these automakers became highly efficient, they sacrificed the innovation, security and resilience that comes with a ground up economy. The car industry imploded and the city of Detroit has been waiting for someone to ship jobs back into the community for half a century now.

In Indian Country we often wait around for Tribal Governments to “create jobs.” The same goes for the rest of small town America and even in the city, where Americans expect politicians in Washington D.C. to somehow wave a magic wand and “create jobs” as if they have been holding them back from us all this time (hmmmm…. maybe they have). But what happens if the gaming industry fails? What happens when the price of commodity metals or timber drops? When tourists stop coming? Our economy is then at the mercy of events out of our control, leading to a feast or famine pattern. We are vulnerable. So instead of waiting on one big employer, we should be creating our own work though a network of self employed specialists or small workshops. Farming is the easiest example of this. But we could also think about a community with a network of self employed artisans producing Native Art; working in silver, wood, precious stones and other materials. This would be the “ground up” economy to replace the “big project” economy of a large tourist shop selling cheap trinkets produced elsewhere. And this same network of artisans can transfer these skills to other small scale manufacturing projects. Our artisans are already producing traditional regalia, moccasins, and casting metal. What else could they make for their community? Clothing, shoes, machined parts?

So which are you going to build in your Native community? This:

Or a place where artisans can sell and produce their wares like the Indian art market on Santa Fe’s plaza?

This style of open air market could evolve into permanent workshops, where artisans produce, manufacture, export and retail their products all in the same place. Here’s what it might look like in an example from Asia:

Which format do you think would attract more tourists and customers? Which would you rather have in your community? Of course, the Pueblo people give us a fine example of American Indian traditional urbanism. Here’s a picture of Taos Pueblo’s northside, where people can live, produce pottery, bake bread, preserve and prepare food, make art, and sell the products of their labor all in one place:

This is an example of a resilient, local economy. In fact, just beyond the borders of Taos Pueblo is a network of small gardens and farms. Taos Pueblo used to be the economic powerhouse of its region, and it could be again. With a little more effort, we could turn all of our communities into healthy economies of small workshops and self employed artisans, manufacturers, farmers and more. Stop waiting around for the government to ship jobs to your community. It may or may not happen, and if it does, it may not last. Instead, build a flexible, ground up economy.

More in this series:

Energy Independence through a DIY ethos and Tlingit village design
Resilient Villages – a rough blueprint
Indigenous Resilience

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About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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7 Responses to More on Resilient Villages

  1. Laine says:

    Sadly aren’t craftsmen/women still dependent on tourism(large scale) to sell their wares? I think we should change our perspective on what makes a vibrant community, economy as opposed to wishing to emulate what success means in the Western context.

  2. ravenwarrior says:

    Indeed. What I’m really trying to get at is that most Indian art is produced through a decentralized manufacturing process, and we can expand on that to include other goods and services. That’s why I point out Taos Pueblo’s former economy of small scale manufacturers and as a regional trade center. Plains Indians came from all around to buy and trade. Consequently, there is still a strong tradition there of pottery making and moccasin making. Let’s replicate that model and expand the products that those artisans are creating to serve local markets, not just tourism.

    Another example: Imagine if Village Street in Juneau became *the* place in Juneau (or all of SE AK) to go and buy Tlingit art instead of South Franklin street, where inauthentic art mixes with authentic. There’s already a strong demand within the Native community for authentic Native art. The Andrew Hope building already has an informal trade in Native foods. That’s an economic foundation. If you could concentrate that activity on one little street, with lots of artisans working and selling within proximity of one another and perhaps even native food vendors, then you have a recipe for economic growth. Suddenly an expert wood maker has started manufacturing furniture. Someone working in cast and carved metals could easily expand to start producing custom parts for machinery. Etc. Etc. I envision homes with workshop store fronts on the first floor and living quarters on the second. Let’s do the same thing in Klukwan, Angoon, etc.

    A network of lots of independent shops and workshops is stronger than one or two “big projects” that tend to come with Tribal Government economic development or ANCSA economic development.

  3. ravenwarrior says:

    Another thing I’d add is that a lot of Alaska Native communities have modeled this kind of ground up economy through subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering. The act of each household going out and catching most of its caloric needs for the year out of the ocean or river is a fine example of a resilient economy. Plus its probably the best example of a sustainable food system we’ve seen in this country. Now if only we could reassert control over our territorial clan waters again…..

  4. Red Mann says:

    GET THE WHITEMAN TO LEGALIZE THE GROWING OF HEMP so the nations may cultivate!
    BETTER YET, TELL THE WHITEMAN HOARDER-CHRISTIAN-KILLERS (BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS) YOU ARE GOING TO GROW HEMP. ANNOUNCE TO THE U.N. YOUR NATIONS INTENTIONS!
    THE RAW MATERIAL (ANNUAL-RENEWABLE) FOR PAPER, FABRIC, SHOES, FUEL(THE SEED -PRESSED-RUNS IN DIESEL ENGINES WITH NO FURTHER REFINING), FOOD, POLYMERS – FOR PLASTICS – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BE SELF SUSTAINING
    DO NOT BUY FROM THE WHITEMAN ANY MORE!
    IT IS THE ONLY POWER YOU HAVE!
    DO AS STATED ABOVE, AND YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO DEPEND ON “WHITEMAN TOURISM” FOR REVENUE, EITHER!

    • ravenwarrior says:

      Hemp is a great idea. For that to work, we need more than one tribe doing it, though. I believe there is one family in the Dakotas that grows hemp, but every year the DEA slashes and burns it. If we had dozens of families across Indian Country growing hemp, then they’d be hard pressed to destroy it all and if they tried, the Feds true nature would be revealed.

      I’m definitely in favor of keeping the value added processes of hemp “in house,” too. So rather than just exporting the raw material, produce finished goods, too.

    • ravenwarrior says:

      Another thing…. I think we ought not to get the Feds to legalize growing hemp on our own lands. We ought to just do it and give the Feds the finger.

  5. Albert says:

    I’ll set up the brewery:)

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