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Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

Professor shares how Indigenous traditions can help solve problems like climate change

Participants in the "Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge" seminar included (l. to r.): Sonny Frank, Daniel Wildcat, Ellen Piekalkiewicz, Eren Erman Ozguyen, and Paul Downing.
Tai Cole
Participants in the "Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge" seminar included (l. to r.): Sonny Frank, Daniel Wildcat, Ellen Piekalkiewicz, Eren Erman Ozguyen, and Paul Downing.

Dr. Daniel Wildcat suggests the approach of Native peoples offers some viable alternatives to Western European methodologies.

The world is certainly full of problems. Things like climate change, toxic politics, air and water pollution and unrestrained growth seem like insurmountable challenges. But Dr. Daniel Wildcat believes there’s hope and even possible solutions.

“Everyone’s heard the apocryphal quote attributed to Albert Einstein - there’s no evidence he ever said it, but it goes something like this: ‘You can’t fix problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.’ I think we’re at a great opportunity here to explore people who feel differently about the world.”

Daniel Wildcat is a professor at the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. He is himself a member of the Yuchi and Muscogee tribes. He also has a great deal of respect for the similar worldviews espoused by a tribe that calls Florida home.

“What I like about my own indigenous traditions and the indigenous traditions of the Seminole (Tribe) I think we have an appreciation for our human place and the balance of creation.”

Whereas the prevailing Western culture looks at nature as a force to be overcome, Wildcat says the thinking of indigenous Americans believes in the principle that everything in nature – including people – are interconnected in profound ways.

“I think indigenous traditions call on this idea that we’re part of a larger community and this community is the ecological systems that we are a part of. So our traditions have this great honoring of the air, the land, the plants, the animals.”

So, before we address the issue of climate change, Daniel Wildcat believes people must first undergo a culture change.

“What happens if we re-change that and say, ‘Really, we’re relatives in a larger life system and ecosystem. And maybe the question we haven’t asked ourselves is, are we being good relatives?’”

Dr. Daniel Wildcat. Noted Native American thinker, author and educator, spoke April 12 (Friday) before an audience of engineers, emergency managers, social workers, children’s advocates and Indigenous studies scholars under the auspices of Florida State University.

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