Indigenous planning

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Indigenous planning (or Indigenous community planning) is an ideological approach to the field of regional planning where planning is done by Indigenous peoples for Indigenous communities.[1] Practitioners integrate traditional knowledge or cultural knowledge into the process of planning. Indigenous planning recognizes that "all human communities plan"[1] and that Indigenous communities have been carrying out their own community planning processes for thousands of years.[2] While the broader context of urban planning, and social planning includes the need to work cooperatively with indigenous persons and organizations, the process in doing so is dependent on social, political and cultural forces.

As there are many Indigenous cultures, practices and planning within Indigenous communities vary greatly.


Indigenous planning has a broader and more comprehensive scope than mainstream or Western planning, and is not limited to land use planning or physical development. Indigenous planning is comprehensive and can address all aspects of community life through community development, including the social and environmental aspects that impact the lives of community members.[3]

Indigenous planning for land and resources can be understood as transformative planning as it addresses complex issues of Indigenous sovereignty, self-government, and self-determination.[4][5] Indigenous planning can also be understood as a form of insurgent planning,[6] as it provides an avenue for communities to confront and address their own oppression.[4] Indigenous planning is often a tool which allows for Indigenous communities to regain control over resources and exercise maintenance of their culture and political autonomy.

The scope of Indigenous planning can be seen to cover three broad areas: Indigenous communities, urban Indigenous communities, land and resource planning[citation needed].


Indigenous peoples have been planning their communities for thousands of years, often referred to as 'since time immemorial'. However, planning as a technical and colonial tool has historically been used as a means to dispossess Indigenous communities through the re-appropriation of traditional territories for non-Indigenous profit and development. While pre-contact Indigenous community planning was based upon managing interactions with the natural world, it now largely focuses on interactions with non-Indigenous actors. As such, Indigenous planning has re-emerged as a reaction to Western planning, which was historically used as a colonial tool, for example through the reserve system in Canada.[7][8]

Indigenous planning emerged as a planning culture and field of practice during the mid-20th century within the context of modern planning. It is a continually evolving practice and spans (but is contextually unique to) Indigenous communities around the world.[1] According to John Friedmann, Indigenous planning emerged as a formalized field in relation to mainstream planning in 1992 at a MIT conference through the creation of a theory of action that was based on long-term learning, local planning and shared culture.[9] Three years later, in 1995, the Indigenous Planning Network was created under the American Planning Association (APA); the division is currently called Indigenous Planning (IP).[10]

Contemporary Indigenous planning practices are particularly prevalent in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States (countries with large Indigenous populations and colonial histories). Histories of colonization have significantly impacted Indigenous communities and their planning cultures.[11] International colonial processes are complex, divergent, and context specific.[12] The large scale and ongoing impacts of these processes include but are not limited to: dispossession from land and retrenchment of decision making power, intergenerational trauma, systematic racism, and disruptions of local and traditional cultural systems.[12] Taiaiake Alfred asserts that it is essential to differentiate between Indigenous and Western planning cultures that are implicated within colonial legacies.[13] Generally, Western planning cultures have tended to value linear systems of rationality, with power structures that dominate and suppress those cultures that do not share these value systems.[2] Since colonization processes took place throughout the world, Indigenous planning cultures were largely ignored and actively disrupted as they were seen as impediments to western civilisation and progress.[11] The culture of Indigenous planning is described as a movement where Indigenous communities, planners, academics, governments, institutions, and leaders, resist colonial and neo-colonial planning traditions as well as work towards increasing protections of rights, freedoms, and sovereignty for Indigenous peoples.[14]


Some of the key principles of Indigenous planning that are distinguishable from 'mainstream' or Western planning approaches, are its recognition and incorporation of traditional knowledge, cultural identity, customary law, and Indigenous world-views.[dubious ][10] As collective land-based peoples, land tenure and stewardship are at the core of Indigenous planning paradigms.[2]

Indigenous communities everywhere have sustained and developed distinct, fluid and evolving planning cultures that are unique to land, history, and peoples. These cultural planning practices include land stewardship, resource management, community planning, and intergenerational learning transfers such as traditional ecological knowledge.[2] Indigenous planning cultures often hold traditional governance structures, including: matrilineal heritage or consensus based decision making; self-reliance and resiliency; and, reciprocity and ceremony.[15] Complex relationships with time exist, with strong emphases on cyclical patterns, such as nature-human relational processes and the Seven Generation Sustainability methodology.[15] Strength-based practices and wellness planning lenses are employed, rather than a negative or weakness based assessment framework.[16] Many of these Indigenous cultures evoke particular planning methods, including: Transformational Planning,[17] Participatory Planning, Therapeutic Planning,[18] Cultural Humility, and Reconciliation.

The Indigenous planning culture is an intersectional, placed-based approach and political movement that is shaping western and mainstream urban planning cultures.[12] Paullette Regan discusses the process of changing Canadian planning culture through the efforts of non-Indigenous Canadians to decolonize their personal beliefs and behaviours.[19] Ryan Walker and Hiringi Matunga use case studies from Canada and New Zealand to discuss how planners might be able to re-situate Indigenous and mainstream planning cultures as a partnership in urban contexts.[12] The reclamation of Indigenous planning cultures challenges western planning assumptions and many planners worldwide are questioning how non-indigenous and indigenous planners can work collaboratively towards planning practices that are reconciliatory, respectful, creative and culturally responsive.[12]

Examples of Specific Indigenous Peoples[edit]


In Australia, land councils are regional organizations representing Indigenous Australians.[20] While the primary function is to advocate for traditional land rights, the work of many land councils extends to community development plans and programs, which focus on the economic, social and cultural well-being of Indigenous Australians.[21][22]


Some Canadian First Nations engage in Indigenous planning through an approach known as Comprehensive Community Planning (CCP).[23][24] CCP is a community-led and community-owned process. As a planning exercise, CCP takes a holistic and long-term approach that considers all aspects of the community, for example: housing, health, culture, economy, land use, resources, education, language revitalization and governance.[23] CCP can also be a way for Indigenous communities to engage formally with government organizations who provide external resources and funding for First Nations projects.[24] Comprehensive Community Plans are living documents designed to reflect and respond to the changing priorities and goals of the community.[25]

The En'owkinwixw process is a traditional method of facilitating "collective learning and community decision-making"[26] used by Syilx communities in Okanagan, British Columbia. The CCP for the Penticton Indian Band is an example of the En'owkinwixw process in action. The process emphasizes inclusion and equal voice in community consultation to create a common guiding framework that is culturally relevant.[26]

New Zealand[edit]

The Maori in New Zealand practice Iwi Management Planning, which provides a framework for tribes to define their past and present, and prescribe "management, planning and decision-making processes to guide iwi toward their concept of self-determination".[14] Iwi management planning and its associated policies and approaches are examples of indigenous planning done by and for Maori communities. Furthermore, Maori iwi management planning is a planning tradition that has a history that predates colonization and any ensuing acts or treaties. Contemporary Maori planning practiced today can be seen as a "dual planning tradition" where the nature of planning in the context of colonization continues to evolve while remaining grounded in Maori tradition and philosophy.[14]

United States[edit]

In Hawai'i there is a trend towards the traditional Ahupuaʻa concept of land management, particularly with watershed planning.[27]

Academic programs[edit]

Several planning schools have incorporated Indigenous planning focuses into their curriculum. Some build relationships with Indigenous communities on whose lands they exist[discuss]. For example, the University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning maintains a partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band.[28] Planning schools which offer Indigenous planning curricula are often interested in updating professional planning education and practice through approaches involving the native ideals and perspectives of decolonization and reflexivity.[8]

Academic institutions with Indigenous planning-focused curricula include:

  1. ^ a b c Matunga, Hirini. "Theorizing Indigenous Planning" in T. Jojola, D. Natcher and R. Walker (eds) Reclaiming Indigenous Planning (McGill-Queens University Press, 2013)
  2. ^ a b c d T. Jojola, D. Natcher and R. Walker (eds) Reclaiming Indigenous Planning (McGill-Queens University Press, 2013)
  3. ^ Walker, Ryan; Matunga, Hirini (Summer 2013). "Re-situating indigenous planning in the city". Plan Canada. Canadian Institute of Planners. 53 (2): 15–17.
  4. ^ a b Lane, Marcus B.; Hibbard, Michael (1 December 2005). "Doing It for Themselves Transformative Planning by Indigenous Peoples". Journal of Planning Education and Research. 25 (2): 172–184. doi:10.1177/0739456X05278983. ISSN 0739-456X. S2CID 145466700.
  5. ^ Friedmann, John (1987). Planning in the public domain: From knowledge to action. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691022682.
  6. ^ Sandercock, Leonie (1998). Towards cosmopolis: Planning for multicultural cities. New York: John Wiley. ISBN 0471971987.
  7. ^ Cook, Jeff (2013). "Honoring Indigenous planning: Renewing our commitment to action". Plan Canada. 53 (2): 8–14.
  8. ^ a b Barry, Janice (2015). "Unsettling planning education through community-engaged teaching and learning: Reflections on the Indigenous planning studio". Planning Theory & Practice. 16 (3): 430–434.
  9. ^ Friedmann, John (1994). "Planning education for the late Twentieth century: An initial inquiry". Journal of Planning Education and Research. 14 (1): 55–64. doi:10.1177/0739456X9401400106. S2CID 143302004.
  10. ^ a b Jojola, Ted (2008). "Indigenous Planning—An Emerging Context". Canadian Journal of Urban Research. 17 (1): 37–47.
  11. ^ a b "Indigenous planning--an emerging context. - Free Online Library". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Plan Canada – Summer 2013". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Cultural strength: restoring the place of indigenous knowledge in practice and policy". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Matunga, Hirini (2006). "The concept of Indigenous planning as a framework for social inclusion" (PDF). Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  15. ^ a b Cook, Jeff. "Celebrating Indigenous Planning". Plan Yukon. Northern Planning Conference Presentation. Archived from the original on 13 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Wellness for First Nations". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  17. ^ Canan, Reynolds, Lily (17 December 2015). "Transformative planning practice and urban Indigenous governance in Vancouver, British Columbia". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Sandercock, Leonie; Attili, Giovanni (2014). "Changing the Lens". Journal of Planning Education and Research. 34: 19–29. doi:10.1177/0739456X13516499. S2CID 144637697.
  19. ^ Regan, Paulette (22 December 2010). Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-5964-6.
  20. ^ "Land Councils". Australian Government. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Community Development". Central Land Council. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Cultural Enterprises". Kimberley Land Council. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  23. ^ a b CCP Handbook: Comprehensive Community Planning for First Nations in British Columbia. Ottawa: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2013. ISBN 978-1-100-21924-0.
  24. ^ a b Cook, Jeffrey (2008). "Building on Traditions of the Past: The Rise and Resurgence of First Nations CCP". Plan Canada. 48 (2): 13–17.
  25. ^ Cook, Jeff. "Gaining momentum: Sharing 96 best practices of First Nations comprehensive community planning" (PDF). New Relationship Trust. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  26. ^ a b Brinkhurst, Marena; Alec, Elaine; Kampe, Anona (2013). "Giving Voice to All: Traditional Syilx wisdom and practice shape contemporary community planning in the Penticton Indian Band's CCP". Plan Canada. 53 (2): 37–42.
  27. ^ Minerbi, Luciano (1999). "Indigenous Management Models and Protection of the Ahupua'a" (PDF). Social Process in Hawai'i. 39: 208–225.
  28. ^ a b "Indigenous Community Planning". School of Community and Regional Planning. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  29. ^ "Graduate Certificate of Planning and Indigenous Communities". James Cook University. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  30. ^ "Programmes". University of Aukland. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  31. ^ "Indigenous Design + Planning Institute". University of New Mexico. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  32. ^ "Environmental planning". University of Northern British Columbia. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  33. ^ "Community Planning and Native Studies". University of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  34. ^ "Master of Community Planning". Vancouver Island University. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  35. ^ "University of Manitoba - City Planning Program - Planning Design 4". Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  36. ^ "Janice Barry". School of Planning. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2020.

See also[edit]