A Dialogue Among "Wests," Their Lands, and Peoples

Nyukuwarta, in the Martu homelands near Parnngurr Aboriginal Community, Western Desert, Australia. (Photo: Brian Codding)


The Comparative Wests Project explores the shared histories between Indigenous populations and European colonialists and the common contemporary issues that remain as legacies of contact in the many Wests oriented towards the Pacific. The project is especially concerned with understanding the construction and transformation of environments that emerge from interaction between native peoples and invading settler colonialism.

The project aims to create a unique collaboration between Indigenous practitioners, Tradtional Owners, researchers, land managers and policy makers to investigate the socio-ecological underpinnings of changing land and resource use in the western United States, western Canada, western South America, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. To further this goal, we are partnering with a number of Indigenous groups, scholars and institutions, drawing renewed attention to the dynamic relationship between livelihoods and landscapes in these Wests.

The shared histories of these Wests include environmental, economic and social transformations that resulted in the restructuring of Indigenous existence and formation of new Nation States which claimed sovereignty over already occupied lands. As a legacy of these events, the Wests share contemporary issues of sovereignty, environmental degradation, the maintenance of Indigenous livelihoods and expressions of these issues in art, architecture and literature. The project aims to foster the reemerging connections between scholars and Indigenous leaders in these Wests in order to better understand these shared pasts and enduring issues.

The Comparative Wests project runs seminars, workshops and conferences and is currently organizing a collaborative research project examining Indigenous fire regimes and contemporary livelihoods in Australia and California.

Initial funding for the Comparative Wests Project comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Stanford's Woods Institute for the Evironment.