August 2016

UNM’s Indigenous Design and Planning Institute Forges Its Role in PlaceMaking


Ted Jojola and Michaela Shirley


 “It is interesting to note that among the professions, our designers and planners appear to be the ones who have been thrown out with the bathwater. For decades, well-meaning efforts have been directed towards medicine, education, law, business and engineering. Yet, the social indicators for our populations have either stayed the same or gotten worse. What’s wrong with this picture? Its due time that design and planning become part of the solution, not the afterthought!”

…remarks by Ted Jojola at the designingEquity convening,


The Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) was established in the School of Architecture and Planning, UNM. As it continues to expand, it has made major inroads both in its work with Indigenous communities and with the school’s degree programs.


Beginning in the fall of 2016, the Masters Program in Community and Regional Planning (CRP) will begin offering a new concentration in Indigenous Planning. The centerpiece of this curriculum is a capstone CRP studio called ITown (for Indigenous Town). iD+Pi has been offering a series of iTown studios, and projects have included Ysleta del Sur (Cultural Corridor Plan), Nambé Pueblo (Plaza Restoration Project), Zuni Pueblo (Zuni MainStreet) and Santo Domingo Pueblo (Tribal Comprehensive Plan). 


Similarly, as part of its international activities, a special study abroad iTown was offered in Ecuador during the summer of 2015. This entailed an ecotourism project with the Kitchwa Cañari in the Andean village of Quilloac. Professors Ted Jojola and Laura Harjo were the lead instructors, accompanied by two other faculty, Levi Romero and Adélamar Alcantara. Eight graduate students and three staff rounded out the group. 


The one-and-a-half week visit was timed to coincide with the Inti Raymi summer solstice festival. After engaging with community leaders and being hosted at sacred sites, the group traveled to the University of San Francisco, Quito, where a three-day workshop on Indigenous Planning was held with faculty, Indigenous students and Indigenous leaders from the region.


This fall, iD+Pi will partner with the UNM Indian Law program to conduct a joint iTown studio that entails an Art Masterplan for the Zuni MainStreet. Funding from ArtPlace America and the SURDNA foundation will allow engagement with Zuni artisans and youth to rethink the representation of its state highway into the pueblo. In turn, the plan will help inform a series of architecture design-build studios in the spring that will construct pop-up prototypes for vendors and tourists.


“I was looking at those abandoned houses. I wasn’t just looking at old walls, but I was remembering what happened inside. I was remembering the laughter and the life that used to exist inside. What happened to that? Where did it go?”

…remarks from a Zuni Pueblo resident at a recent ZETAC, Zuni ArtPlace MainStreet teacher workshop.


Because of such experiences, iD+Pi has begun to rethink its role in the school and in the university. Originally founded as an institute that would provide technical assistance, it is rethinking how it can use an education learning approach in design and planning. By integrating community-based activities into a learning environment, ongoing projects would involve faculty, students and professionals into their team or individual coursework. By encompassing a broader mandate in Indigenous placemaking, interdisciplinary work with other degree programs could occur.


Indigenous planning is a movement that is established on the belief that Indigenous communities should benefit from the best practices that design and planning have to offer, but in a manner that is culturally informed. It requires that leadership balance the immediacy of action (short term) with a comprehensive vision (long term). 


“Many people fall through the cracks. It starts with an unhealthy place and a dysfunctional community. All of this thinking is what propelled me explore the role schools have had in the historic and present-day community development of remote places. At least for my community, schools have been the center of that transformation.  It was more than education. It created the roads, layered the basic infrastructure and attracted families to live nearby. This has been going on since the turn of the 20th century. And, It has been largely done without a cultural voice.”

…remarks by Michaela Shirley at the designing Equity convening.


iD+Pi has been representing such approaches at various national venues. In May of 2016, for example, Ted Jojola, director, and Michaela Shirley, professional intern, of the Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi), UNM, were invited to set the tone for the convening of a designingEquity event staged in Washington, D.C. At this convening, the SURDNA foundation and NEA Artworks sponsored over 60 architects, including landscape architects, to discuss approaches on community-engaged design. These individuals and their organizations work in partnerships with communities of color and low income.


Other events continue to be staged. Since January, its work has been presented at the SmartGrowth conference in Portland, Oregon and the ArtPlace America convening in Phoenix, Arizona, and its work will be showcased alongside others at a soon to be opening at the NYC Cooper-Hewett Museum of Design “By the People, Designing a Better America” exhibit (Sept. 20, 2016 – Feb. 26, 2017).


iD+Pi recently participated in an Indigenous Planning Summer Institute held at the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin. Sponsored by the Sustainable Development Institute, its director, Chris Caldwell (Menominee Nation), teamed up with associate professor Kyle Whyte (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) to offer a weeklong workshop for incoming student forestry interns. The central theme was on climate change and Indigenous Planning. 


Aside of iD+Pi’s workshop presentations, one major takeaway was seeing how the Menominee tribe practiced sustainable-yield forestry management. It is the centerpiece of a burgeoning timber industry that not only provides economic opportunity but also affirms their cultural roles and identity. Unlike many forests, the goal is to diversify its stands by maintaining 14 different cover types, each of which is an ecological mix of tree species. Groves of pine, beech, maple and hemlock coexist. Lumber harvest is not determined by outside demand but by what the ecosystem can yield. The cultural health of the people is directly attributed to the health of the forest.


Another highlight at the IP Summer Institute was a visit at the neighboring Oneida Tribal Nation of Wisconsin. Hosted by Jeffrey Witte, Oneida Nation indigenous planner, a tour was given of lands that have been restored from farms to wetlands. Equally impressive was a cultural ArtBridge project that was constructed along a 2.6-mile walking trail that links public services to residential areas. Together, such successes demonstrate the power and value of placemaking.


In her remarks at a recent youth conference on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art + Math), Michaela concluded, “Reflect, pray, and think about the type of places you envision. If it is one thing you remember about my talk it is this: Placemaking and Indigenous Planning at the end of day is about designing and planning a place where everyone belongs.” This aptly sums up iD+Pi’s efforts to date. 



Ted Jojola, Ph.D., is director of iD+Pi and a Distinguished Professor and Regents’ Professor, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico. He is from the Pueblo of Isleta.


Michaela Shirley is interning as an iD+Pi Program Specialist. She is a graduate of the Masters in Community and Regional Planning program at UNM. She is Diné (Navajo) from Kin Dah Lichii, Arizona.





PBS Broadcast of Native American Green: New Directions in Tribal Housing


The Natural Heroes TV series, seen nationally on Public Broadcast Service (PBS) stations, is airing an episode entitled Native American Green, produced by Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative with Adventure Pictures. Viewers can tune in locally or stream the program at


The show tells the story of a remarkable transformation in green architecture on Native American lands. A new generation of tribal leaders, architects and planners is creating sustainable buildings that restore traditions and revitalize native communities. Native American Green features five of these innovative projects, including the Owe’Nehbupingeh Rehabilitation Project (Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico was formerly known as San Juan Pueblo). Owe’neh Bupingeh, the traditional name for the Ohkay Owingeh village center, has been occupied for at least 700 years. Sixty of the homes remain and are being restored with tribal members, earthen building constructors and the team of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects.





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