Towards measuring indigenous sustainability: Merging vernacular and modern knowledge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The encounter between Indigenous societies and Western states often involves imposition of undesired policies by the state. Their adaptation often fails primarily due to inappropriate policy and planning tools and particularly insufficient integration of highly essential Indigenous values and vernacular knowledge into policy formulation in building a sustainable place for these groups. Consequently, Indigenous peoples often become marginalized and dependent on the state’s welfare. Understanding Indigenous sustainability requires observation from an Indigenous point of view. Sustainability is perceived differently among various Indigenous groups but is almost always associated with a spiritual connection to nature and perception of their locale as a sacred place that provides all existential needs. The absence of an Indigenous sustainability index attests to ill-integration of Indigenous knowledge, and governments are therefore hard-put to formulate a policy compatible with their unique needs. Based on a study conducted among the Bedouin population in Israel, this chapter proposes a measurement tool, an Indigenous sustainability index, which attempts to provide quantitative expression to the various qualitative non-material variables that comprise the Indigenous place in modern countries. The proposed index combines the conventional Western components of sustainability with the non-material Indigenous culture and sense of place. It consists of subjective indicators, which examine non-material characteristics such as tribalism, Indigenous tradition, patriarchal society, spiritual connection to place and place identity with a series of objective material social, economic and environmental indicators commonly used in modern indices. The chapter will address, inter alia, the formulation of the index, the manner in which indicators were, and are, to be selected, as well as provide a list of detailed indicators based on our study, and a determination of weights assigned to groups of indicators. In this process we draw upon our previous studies of building a sustainability index. Integrating the mental, geographical, and spatial elements with economic and environmental perspectives in an Indigenous society will enable us to create a new and more generic measurement method of Indigenous sustainability towards producing a sustainable Indigenous place within modern spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Wellbeing and Enterprise
Subtitle of host publicationSelf-Determination and Sustainable Economic Development
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9781000753684
ISBN (Print)9780367349639
StatePublished - 9 Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)


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