In the Western culture today, the environment is perceived as a source for goods and resources. However, this perspective has resulted in serious environmental degradation and a real threat to our species’ survival. To combat these problems there must be a radical shift in the Western culture’s conception of nature.

The first step in this shift is to recognize the environment as a legal person. The United States should grant legal personality to all publicly owned lands containing sites held sacred by Indigenous peoples and establish a collaborative board to manage the sites to recognize Indigenous cultural rights and encourage a paradigm shift in the Western culture; this in turn will result in a sustainable relationship with the environment.

Part I of this paper discusses the Te Urewera Act 2014, a piece of New Zealand, or Aeotera, legislation that creatively solves land ownership and management issues arising from a history of colonization. Part II of this paper explores the idea of granting legal personality to sacred sites to honor Indigenous peoples’ cultural rights, and the environmental implications.

Part III of this paper describes the origins and development of the Western economy and its inability to recognize the inherent value of the environment crucial to a sustainable relationship with nature. Part IV of this paper explores the concept of sustainable development and Indigenous cultures’ unique ability to develop Sustainable Development policies. The paper goes on in Part V to discuss the benefits of collaboration between the Western culture and Indigenous cultures to manage sacred sites and implement Sustainable Development policies.



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