“A state of life that seeks healthy harmony and balance with the human body and Earth’s natural systems; drawing inspiration and guidance from indigenous cultures while harnessing innovative environmental technology to build a new model of living on this planet that makes our existing model obsolete.”
– Michael Sturtz
Michael originally coined this term in 1995 after he created his BFA exhibit at Alfred University: “Remains and Artifacts of a Dead Planet,” which he designed to display artifacts from our civilization, as discovered by alien anthropologists and historians of a distant future.
The exhibit was created as a response to the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, whose title means “Life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living” in the Hopi language. This film depicted a world in the ever-tightening grip of modern technology, and as a consequence, growing more and more out of balance.
“Remains and Artifacts of a Dead Planet” served as a starting point for Michael, who had previously traveled to Africa to explore indigenous cultures and systems including the Maasai in Tanzania. He observed how these indigenous communities most often worked with nature instead of against it.
Upon returning home to the States, he reflected on the idea that indigenous knowledge for natural systems seemed to have been lost, contributing to the degradation of modern western society. He began to imagine how we humans might create a world brought into balance—a world where we could harness the wisdom of the Earth’s original peoples, and couple that wisdom with the power of technology.
It was after Michael returned to Oakland, CA in 1995, that he coined the term Indigeny to help conceptualize this phenomenon. This concept served as his moral guidepost and would later shape his life’s direction.
In Michael’s view, modern society is composed of two systems of living. The vast majority live “on the grid,” where the resources needed to survive comfortably are provided in a pre-formulated model. A minority of indigenous groups still live “off the grid,” where basic resources are not a given and have to be surfaced via the ingenuity of the community.
The second model for living, Michael posits, allows for more flexibility and the potential to be in greater alignment with Earth’s systems. Michael believes that drawing from these indigenous communities and coupling their practices with innovative technology may be a way to bring our planet back into a thriving balance; a state of Indigeny.
Indigney in New Zealand
Michael has been consulting and speaking in New Zealand since 2007, when he first visited to design and help build the metal casting, welding, and blacksmithing facilities for the The Learning Connexion, a school of creativity and art located just north of Wellington, New Zealand. Since then, Michael has been an organizational development consultant to the school, and has developed a deep friendship with founders of the school, Johnathan and Alice Milne.
Michael returns frequently to New Zealand as a speaker at conventions, universities, and gatherings of designers, government officials, and entrepreneurs. He shares his views on how to foster creativity, collaboration, and innovative culture, as well as ways to influence the future of manufacturing technology, architecture, and education.
In 2018, Michael gave a series of talks during two different speaking tours in New Zealand, on the topic of “New Zealand’s unique opportunity to transform the world’s future.” During these talks Michael began sharing his definition of Indigeny. The concept was received with enthusiasm as a unique opportunity for New Zealand’s future direction. Michael is currently designing and planning the launch of the world’s first Indigeny innovation center in Wellington, New Zealand.
From its citizenry, business, and government, New Zealand embodies a uniquely future-focused philosophy of environmental sustainability, indigenous wisdom, and planetary stewardship. Michael has set his eyes to this island nation as the ideal germination ground to nurture Indigeny to its highest manifestation: an open-source innovation center focused solely on the reversal of the devastating effects of humanity on our planet.
Michael intends to manifest a nexus of innovation and experimentation for environmental restoration methodology and technology. Its directive—to connect environmental career pathways within high schools, universities, New Zealand communities, and Maori culture. Teaching and inspiring innovative Kiwis that are highly desired for the skill sets and experience.
Indigney’s goal is to ideate, incubate, and launch new designs, technologies, and materials, drawn from New Zealand’s natural resources, to shepherd its economic independence while creating new educational and employment industries. New Zealand’s innovation, technologies, materials, and experts will then be shared throughout the world.