Keynote Panel Discussion



Decolonizing Planning:
Indigenous Perspectives from Settler States

This keynote panel brings three leading scholars in Indigenous planning who have studied the contexts of three contemporary settler-states (Canada, the US and New Zealand) to engage ACSP attendees in a timely discussion about whether a decolonial planning is possible and, if so, what it might mean for the academic and professional planning communities. It is a chance to discuss the history of planning in relation to colonization and spatialized oppression, and what kind of barriers and opportunities we face when planning more equitable futures.

In recent years, several planning scholars and practitioners have pointed to the urgent need to decolonize planning, recognizing that the historic roots of mainstream planning are inseparable from colonial projects of land acquisition, social control and dispossession of Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in settler countries. Others, question whether a decolonization of planning is even possible, and whether such a project would actually go as far as addressing the foundational question of land restitution. After all, despite discourses about reconciliation that have begun to permeate planning circles, the colonial genealogy of planning still shapes the institutions, legal and economic regimes, understandings of land and property rights, resource management schemes, and Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations under which planning operates today. Current waves of Indigenous resistance and government reprisal regarding the planning of massive energy projects and pipelines on Indigenous lands to feed urban centres and economic growth in Canada, the US, and in other jurisdictions, clearly illustrate these inherent tensions. While the call for a decolonial planning is fundamentally a plea for Indigenous sovereignty, it is also a question of how to transform planning epistemologies to exist alongside pre-existing forms of Indigenous planning and traditional knowledge. It is also a question about the potential and limits of what planning can do to redress historical injustices.

As challenges surrounding racial inequity and social inequality, the environment, technology, housing, and the economy continue to grow more complex, there is a need and a responsibility to examine critically our current methodologies and epistemologies. Planning schools can be one such space to understand how reconciliation must be more than just tokenism and what are the structural changes required within academia to change the ideology of planning.


Heather Dorries, Moderator
Assistant Professor

Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Heather Dorries is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning and Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto. Trained as a planner, her research focuses on the relationship between urban planning and settler colonialism. She is currently revising her book manuscript Planning the End of the World: Indigenist Planning Theory and the Art of Refusal, which demonstrates how Indigenous knowledge systems can inform resurgent forms of planning and urbanism. She is a co-editor of the collection Settler City Limits: Indigenous Resurgence and Settler Colonial Violence in the Urban Prairie West (University of Manitoba Press, 2019). She is of Anishinaabe ancestry and originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Laura Harjo
Associate Professor
Department of Native American Studies, The University of Oklahoma

Laura Harjo is a Mvskoke scholar and an associate professor teaching Indigenous Planning, Community Development, and Indigenous Feminisms. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California in geography, while also tracking through the American Studies and Ethnicity doctoral program. Thus her training and scholarly inquiry are at the intersection of geography and critical ethnic studies with “community” as an analytic focus. Harjo’s research and teaching centers on three areas: imbuing complexity to Indigenous space, and place; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives and anti-violence; and community-based knowledge production. She is the author of Spiral to the Stars: Mvskoke Tools of Futurity (University of Arizona Press, 2019), which employs Mvskoke epistemologies, and Indigenous feminisms to grapple with a community praxis of futurity.

Prior to joining UNM, she was a research fellow with the Advancement Project in Washington, DC. There she worked in an attorney/researcher partnership with civil rights expert Donita Judge, Esq. and researched and spatially analyzed civil rights issues in Florida, Texas, and New Orleans related to voter protection, inclusive community development, and the prison industrial complex-school to prison pipeline. Harjo was previously appointed Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Ambassador to the United Nations, and currently serves on the board of directors for the Indian Land Tenure Foundation.

Hirini Matunga
Professor and Assistant Vice Chancellor (Maori)
Lincoln University in New Zealand

Hirini Matunga is Professor of Maori and Indigenous Development and Professor of Indigenous Planning at Lincoln University. Prior to that he was Deputy Vice Chancellor Communities, Assistant Vice Chancellor - Maori, Director of the Centre for Maori and Indigenous Planning and Development at Lincoln University and Senior Lecturer in Planning at the University of Auckland. He graduated in Town Planning in 1983 and has practised as a planner – specialising in Maori Planning issues at all levels of government in New Zealand including local, regional and central. In the process he has worked with many Maori tribal, rural and urban communities, along with teaching and research in Maori planning, policy and resource management for well over 30 years. His contributions have also extended across a range of international indigenous planning contexts, including contributions to theorizing indigenous planning, discourse on indigenous architecture, decolonizing cities and urban space, and ethical approaches to indigenous heritage management et al. In 2015 New Zealand’s Minister for Maori Development presented him with the New Zealand Planning Institutes - Papa Pounamu Award for Outstanding Service to Maori Environmental Planning and Resource Management. He is of Ngai Tahu, Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata and Ngati Kahungunu, tribal descent.


Deborah McGregor
Associate Professor
Osgoode Hall Law School & Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, York University

McGregor is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice, an Associate Professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall and cross-appointed with the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. Her research is focused on Indigenous knowledge systems and their various applications in diverse contexts including water and environmental governance, environmental justice, climate justice, and sustainable planning. McGregor is Anishinaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, Birch Island, Ontario. Over the years, she has achieved international recognition through her creative and innovative approach using digital and social media to reach Indigenous communities and the public. Her work has been shared through the IEJ project website and UKRI International Collaboration on Indigenous research



The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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