Indigenous Theories

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Indigenous Theories

Examples of indigenous systems for change include the Oromo social development theory and Alaska indigenous community resilience. Communalism and Kinship are examples of social structures in indigenous communities. An overview of these examples is provided below.

Indigenous Systems for Change

Oromo Indigenous Social Development Theory

Overview
  • In Oromo, development "is growth and passing from one stage to the other." Their development system is based on the Oromo Gada Cycle, in which daily activities have the purpose to sustain and improve each individual's life.
  • Community developmental decisions usually take place once every eight years. It is believed that each 'gada' (their traditional system of governance) has its own development agenda and competitions among the 'gadas' take place "to do better when they are in office." Also, during development campaigns, "participants sing songs that promote development."
  • Economic development, however, is individual rather than communal. In Oromo, being poor or rich "depends on individual effort." This is why all individuals are incited to be self-sufficient to live a prosperous and happy life.
  • The concept of social development in southern Oromia is called 'finna,' which "represents the legacy of the past which each generation inherits from its forefathers and which it transforms; it is the fertile patrimony held in trust by the present generation which it will enrich and bequeath to future generations …it describes a movement emanating from the inside, a development of the inner potential of the society based on the cultural roots it has already laid down."
  • The Oromo development has seven phases: Guddina (creating new experiences and adding them to the existing cultural life), Gabbina (integrating cumulative experiences with contemporary ones by expanding knowledge and world view), Ballina (democracy cooperation of all members of society to make cultural, economic, and political progress), Badhaadhina (expansion of enriched cultural experiences in the society), Hormaata (reproducing and multiplying because of conducive conditions), Dagaagina (integrating development cycles to maintain even and stable development), and Dagaa-hora (full development is achieved and expanded to neighboring societies).
How It's Different from Western-World Systems
  • The Oromo development concept differs from the western concept in "the way they see development itself." Westerns see development as a linear unidirectional change toward the future, while Oromo development is "not linear unidirectional but cyclical."

Alaska Native Community Resilience

Overview
  • Alaska Native communities' resilience towards a variety of rapid changes requires infrastructure development. These communities develop "ways and means to raise capital for infrastructure investments; better cooperation and coordination among governments, military and security bodies, other agencies, and the private sector to reduce risk; building Indigenous participation and benefits; and building sustainable communities."
  • Key factors that contribute to this resilience include tradition, ancestry, and cooperation with other rural communities.
How It's Different from Western-World Systems

Afrocentricity

Overview
  • Afrocentricity as a theory of change "re-locates the African person as a subject, thus destroying the notion of being objects in the Western project of domination."
  • This theory encompasses "change in the way that the world has been viewed," one that considers all features of human existence and centralizing African experiences.
  • In addition, "Afrocentricity is defined in terms of the methodology, theory, and ideology that should be employed to achieve its objectives towards attaining the proposed change."
How It's Different from Western-World Systems
  • The Afrocentric theory emphasizes and traces the distinctive cultural expressions of Africa, while the Eurocentric view "traces the origins of black Americans to urban ghettoes," a view centered on the Western civilization.

Indigenous Community Structures

Communalism

Overview
  • Communalism refers to "a system that integrates communal ownership of highly localized communities." In African indigenous societies, communalism is important for existence and "is part of their belief of indivisibility of reality."
  • Through communalism, African communities bring children within the community as they become communal property since their birth. "Bringing up children is the responsibility of the whole community." Children develop a spirit of working and living in common.
  • As a result of this social structure, children's education is also the responsibility of the community.
How It's Different from Western-World Structures

Kinship in Australian Indigenous Communities

Overview
  • Indigenous nations in Australia are comprised of clan groups, which are composed of family groups. "Clan groups share a common language and kinship system, which is based on either patrilineal or matrilineal lines of descent."
  • There are three levels of kinship: Moiety (everything is split into two halves that mirror each other and it's determined by the mother's or father's side), Totem (each person has at least four Totems which represent their nation, clan, family group, and personal Totem), and Skin Names (indicates a person's bloodline).
  • An individual's position in the kinship system "establishes their relationship to others and the universe." It also determines their responsibilities towards other people, the land, and natural resources.
How It's Different from Western-World Structures
  • In western communities, nuclear families, usually composed of a mother, a father, and their children, are the more traditional and basic social structure.

Research Strategy

To provide examples of indigenous change systems and community structures, we expanded our research criteria to focus on sources from the past 5-6 years or more.
We added Afrocentrality as an indigenous social change theory. However, according to the available information, this seems to be more of an ideology/point of view than an example of how an indigenous community manages change.
Sources
Sources