Sustainable Development, the Significance of Culture: Foundations of Present Practices and Indigenous Reflections

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Fragmented oral and written histories have limited causal understanding of the relationship between Indigenous cultures and their environment allowing for stereotypes to dominate and skew appropriate attributions of historical peoples’ longevity in specific geographic regions. Further and specific to the North American region, historical justification of the systematic elimination of Indigenous inhabitants along with the prevalence and persistence of negative stereotyping have discredited Indigenous cultures and prevented the potential for dissemination of sustainable practices that maintained the unique geographic, plant, and animal diversity of the continent prior to the settlement of the Plymouth colony in 1620. In this paper, the author explores the evidence of sustainable practices for a specific cohort of Indigenous Americans, the inhabitants of New England, and assembles examples of sustainable practices observable at the time of initial European colonization. The information evaluated is inclusive of spiritual as well as agricultural practices. The outcomes observed promote the understanding of Indigenous sustainable practices to be values based, where values reference the Indigenous peoples’ cultural attribution of their relationship with the environment. The significance of this attribution and comparison with colonial culture is in the identification of the relationship between culture and sustainability. The latter promotes the author’s view that culture and cross-cultural comparisons should be incorporated as a mandatory component within sustainability discussions and education.

Original Citation

Venkatesan, M. (2016). Sustainable Development, the Significance of Culture: Foundations of Present Practices and Indigenous Reflections. In J. P. Davim & W. L. Filho (Eds.), Challenges in Higher Education for Sustainability (pp. 103-118). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-23705-3_4