Top 7 reasons for adding an Indigenous/Tribal consultant to your team

1. Materials. What is culturally relevant? What is sacred? Cedar, sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, birchbark…

2.  You want to capture local values. Take for example privacy and neighborhood planning. While many designers will be inspired by communal living arrangements of the traditional tipi encampments, close proximity to neighbors isn’t desirable. Urban layouts don’t transfer to the reserve (or reservation).

3. You want to ensure the local culture is reflected in the architecture. The spatial aspects are only one part of the design process; social, spiritual and experiential aspects may play an equally important role in capturing the culture of the community.

4. You want (or are asked to) engage the community. Nations often bring design and planning projects in front of the community. Sometimes it is to inform, but often they ask the community to comment. Consensus, the collective design process and community engagement are great reasons to add a consultant to your team.

5. You desire qualitative data and research as part of your design process and are unsure of protocol. Do you need to consult Elders? Are honorariums required? Can the questions be formulated from a cultural or historical understanding?

6. You don’t have time to research the relevant historical or cultural factors.

7. You need a crash course on the logistic, legal and economic intricacies of building and development on First Nations (or Tribal) land.