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Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault

Written by: Nicole Brekelmans

Edited by: Richard Perron

Indigenous planning is a strategy used to plan and design places through the lenses of indigenous people and communities, to reclaim their historic planning approaches. It requires the implementation of indigenous views, values, and traditions such as community health and well-ness, sustainability, and place-based approaches (Porter, 2017). These views and values rely heavily on the collective and communities for further engagement and sense of belonging through health and wellness, multiculturalism, and preserving language and culture (Stuart & Thompson-Fawcett, 2010). The planning process involves indigenous people, places, knowledge, worldviews, and decisions to provide a strong indigenous role within each project. 

(Stuart & Thompson-Fawcett, 2010). It is about Indigenous people receiving more control to provide them with the ability to make decisions about their land, based on their values. Interdependence and interconnected elements play a major role in the planning process to create a network over multiple disconnected elements. A network can include components such as land, water, transportation, buildings, infrastructure, open spaces and those who inhabit these spaces (Stuart & Thompson-Fawcett, 2010).   


Along with this, there are 5 main elements that act as the framework for Indigenous planning. First is committing to relationships and listening, involves the incorporation of indigenous perspectives including wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth through a collaborative foundation (Porter, 2017)  This provides the planning process with an open and friendly platform for both parties to voice their concerns or opinions from the beginning. Second, is demonstrate culturally relevant designs to convey the underlying values and the spirit of the place (Porter, 2017). This connects back to the place-based approaches indigenous communities commit to within their planning strategies. Third is respect mother earth through the celebration and enhancement of the natural environment (Porter, 2017). This can be completed through conservation, restoration, education, and community engagement, as well as creating a balance between the spaces land, animals, and people. Fourth is foster a sense of belonging and community by connection the people using the space with the indigenous people (Porter, 2017). Eliminating segregation and isolation provides a safe space and a sense of belonging for all. Finally, is to embrace the “Seven Generations” view. This view is an Indigenous way of being by looking 7 years to the past and 7 years into the future for each major decision being made (Porter, 2017). This strategy results in designs or projects being an expression of its own time by learning from the past while still taking to account the generations to come. 


Indigenous planning is focused mainly within New Zealand, Canada, and United States; places with strongest connections to specific indigenous communities. Specifically, within Canada, urban reserves have been emerging in different cities. An urban reserve is an Indigenous reserve within an urban centre that increases Indigenous communities’ economic independence and prosperity through urban markets and the corresponding job opportunities. McKnight Commercial Centre is a large commercial space within a dense residential area in Saskatoon that acts as a framework for a successful urban reserve (McKnight Commercial Centre, n.d.). The commercial centre is owned by the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and includes offices, financial institutions, retail stores, and gas stations with the majority of the employees being indigenous and residents of the reserve (McKnight Commercial Centre, n.d.). The variety of the site, along with its location allows the urban reserve to blend into its context, while still remaining a separate entity. Urban reserves within Canada and other countries create new urban design opportunities for further collaboration between the municipal governments, residents of the city and the indigenous communities. It puts further importance onto urban designers to design urban spaces with care and a sense of responsibility to provide accessible spaces and to increase the representation of indigenous people within city limits. 


Indigenous Resurgence is another component to further the independence and representation of indigenous communities within urban areas. Indigenous Resurgence is based off of three contentions; (1) Colonialism is an active structure of domination focused on indigenous elimination; (2) the current environment and government still reflects these past values; (3) to properly pursue indigenous social and cultural rejuvenation this current hostile environment and values from colonization must be eliminated (Eliot, 2017). Indigenous resurgence has a strong focus on the Indigenous-Settler relations, and how this relationship can be more balanced through communication, education, collaboration, and design-processes (Eliot, 2017). Indigenous resurgence furthers indigenous planning by focusing on reconciliation, the relationship between the two sides, and the evolution of indigenous communities (Eliot, 2017). 


The overall goal for indigenous planning is to integrate the traditions and values of both the indigenous community and the community of residents. This therefore will create further balance between the two communities and create more in-depth sustainable and community based urban design strategies. Incorporating Indigenous memories, cultures and sustainable strategies allows urban spaces to gain identity, purpose, and a sense of place. 



Elliott, M. (2017). Indigenous Resurgence: The Drive for Renewed Engagement and Reciprocity in the Turn Away from the State. Canadian Journal of Political Science,51(1), 61-81. doi:10.1017/s0008423917001032


McKnight Commercial Centre • Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Investment. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2019, from


Porter, L., Matunga, H., Viswanathan, L., Patrick, L., Walker, R., Sandercock, L., . . . Jojola, T. (. (2017). Indigenous Planning. Planning Theory & Practice,18(4), 639-666. doi:10.1080/14649357.2017.1380961


Stuart, K., & Thompson-Fawcett, M. (Eds.). (2010). Tāone tupu ora: Indigenous knowledge and sustainable urban design. Wellington, N.Z.: Steele Roberts.

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