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Guest Speaker Chris Newman

Indigenous Heritage: Issues of Representation and Ownership

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
2:30 PM – 3:45 PM
Library and Gallery, Albin O. Kuhn
Chris is a permaculturalist and an outspoken advocate of ecological, economic, and social sustainability in food. He's garnered both criticism and praise for 1.) advocating a moderate, pragmatic approach to sustainable food systems that recognizes the complementary roles of ecological farming and technological innovation; 2.) frank discussions of the intersection of race, agriculture, and permaculture; and 3.) blunt, unsparing criticism of the "clean food" movement's often-elitist values and aversion to self-reflection.


Chris is the founder of Sylvanaqua Farms, which is charged with developing sustainable food-producing ecosystems throughout his ancestral homelands in the Chesapeake Bay region. His organization is actively working on landscapes extending from large private estates near Charlottesville, Virginia; eastward to a food forest concept at James Madison’s Montpelier; still further east to Stratford Hall in the Northern Neck, and north across the Potomac River to the Accokeek Foundation where, as a member of the board of trustees, Chris articulated the vision for the National Food Forest, slated to be the largest permaculture project ever undertaken on public land.

A member of the Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians, Chris places a heavy emphasis on the indigenous ethics, values, and knowledge serving as the (often unacknowledged) foundation of the modern permaculture movement, and the decolonized worldview necessary to ensure the sustainable stewardship of natural resources. An engineer and technologist by trade, he also accepts and explores the potential of modern scientific innovation to address the gaps left by ecosystem farming in solving a sustainability problem wherein timeliness is a factor.

His essays and talks have been featured on NPR, the Huffington Post, Quartz, and NewCo Shift. He has also spoken as a guest lecturer and on panels at the University of Virginia, the Tom Tom Founders Festival, and the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.
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