By Ted Jojola, PhD
The Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) at the University of New Mexico was established on the belief that Indigenous communities should benefit from the best practices that design and planning have to offer in a manner that is culturally informed. Located in the School of Planning and Architecture, iD+Pi has established the only graduate level concentration in Indigenous Planning in the nation. We work with faculty, students, professionals and tribes to address complex issues around Indigenous PlaceMaking. We are part of an international movement that has representation in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and various other Latin America countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru.
Indigenous design often goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of architectural practice. As members of their respective communities, practitioners adhere to social protocols and are aware of their place in the culture. They are attuned to the spirituality, language, and the landscape of the places they represent. Their role supercedes that of an architect. They are also facilitators in the community engagement process. The process of design is not driven by artistic and heuristic imperatives. Rather it is in orchestration of public engagement that gives meaning, voice and clarity in the built form.
Over time, Indigenous design practitioners began to advance their professional credentials and empower their communities to design and plan for culturally relevant “good buildings“. Contemporary practices of Indigenous design are distinct and unique from the general practice of architecture because of its regenerative purpose. Buildings become the narrative of the community. The building becomes a metaphor for stories that are invested in place and time as well as reflecting the identity of their respective cultures.
Indigenous planning is a participatory process predicated on establishing a set of principles that are informed by generations that are ever-present in a healthy community. A seven-generation planning model connects the past, present, and future through the older generations (great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents), the mid-generation (self), and the younger generations (children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren).
Specifically, the seven-generation process reminds us that we should adhere to a vision where a single lifetime may not provide enough time to complete a plan. Rather, it forces us to consider how we indoctrinate the younger generations to continue the vision into their lifetimes and beyond. The process also subscribes to the concept of birthright and inheritance as a value attached to land tenure. This relationship is the heart of sustainability and resiliency for Indigenous communities.
(Excerpt taken from Jojola. T. (2016). The People are Beautiful Already: Indigenous Design and Planning By the People: Designing a Better America. Pp. 44-53. https://www.cooperhewitt.org/publications/by-the-people-designing-a-better-america/)
Theodore (Ted) Jojola, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor and Regents’ Professor in the Community & Regional Planning Program, School of Architecture + Planning, University of New Mexico (UNM).
Currently he is the founder and Director of the Indigenous Design + Planning Institute. iD+Pi works with tribal communities throughout the SW region as well as internationally by facilitating culturally informed approaches to community development.
From 2008-2010, he was Visiting Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University where he was a member of the faculty of the School Geographic Sciences and Planning. He was Director of Native American Studies at UNM from 1980-1996, and established the interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in Native Studies.
He is actively involved in major research projects on Indian education, Indigenous community development and architecture. He is coeditor of two books—The Native American Philosophy of V.F. Cordova entitled How It Is (U. of Arizona Press, 2007) and Reclaiming Indigenous Planning (McGill-Queens University Press, 2013). A third book is in the works, Contemporary Indigenous Architecture: Local Traditions, Global Winds (working title, UNM Press). In addition, he has published numerous articles and chapters on topics relating to indigenous design & planning, stereotyping and economic development. He is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta.