Since the the Long Walks of the 1860’s Navajo people have wrestled with the problems of acculturation and assimilation, while trying to preserve their spiritual and cultural foundations. Though history has negatively affected Navajo wellbeing (happiness), sustainable Navajo principles and practices act as a positive counterweight.
Aspiring to build the most socially and environmentally sustainable chapter house possible, the Navajo Nation’s Tonalea Chapter collaborated with our ASU research team. Two roundtable discussion with Chapter elders and members, led to a vision foundation that embodies physical, functional and environmental conditions, as well as cultural and spiritual beliefs and values.
Initially, Houde’s (2007) Six Faces of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) were used to sort commentary. Analysis and review led to expanding the framework from six to eight traditional ecological knowledge categories (TEK8): Culture, Spirituality, Ecosystem, Time, Land, Design, Social Justice and Equity, and Economics.
Sorted narratives and discussions revealed traditional ways of life, beliefs, and values, along with suggestions about who to design for, and what functions are most needed. Based on the TEK8 categorized comments, design recommendations were offered.
Additional work is needed, but a strong foundation for a framework mapping TEK to sustainable design for indigenous people has been developed. By using the TEK8 to address social justice issues through participatory visioning, culturally appropriate design and broader opportunities for happiness may result.