Indigenous Ecological Literacy

Research Weblog #4

By Andrew C. Shedden


I decided to focus on Indigenous Ecological Literacy for this research Weblog. I feel that Indigenous ways of knowing and conceptualizing the world around us are absolutely crucial for ecological sustainability. Take for example the current issue surrounding resource extraction globally. At the forefront of the water protection movement has been Indigenous people.


Teaching for Ecological Sustainability- Incorporating Indigenous Philosophies and Practices

Author: Dr. Clinton L. Beckford and Russell Nahdee, University of Windsor



This monograph is an Ontario Government document that outlines ways in which educators can attempt to include Indigenous conceptions of ecological sustainability into the classroom. It gives a brief overview of “Key Tenets of Aboriginal Philosophy”, acknowledging that this is a broad overview and oversimplification of Indigenous culture. This document makes suggestions about the ways in which Aboriginal content can be presented within mainstream classrooms. The authors go on to make suggestions on how to make this work in a practical sense.


My one criticism of this article is that “Utilize Aboriginal Expertise” is at the bottom of the last page, and the last of the suggested tips for practice. I feel that Indigenous people have had their voice marginalized and silenced for many years. A classroom setting should be empowering Indigenous people to speak for themselves, particularly when it comes to articulating things about their own culture. I feel that classroom teachers who reach out to local Indigenous groups in a respectful manner can help build trust between Indigenous and non Indigenous communities.


Opinion- Education Must Focus Efforts on Ecological Literacy

Author: Matt Henderson


This article by a high school teacher outlines “two fundamental gaps” in our society and media regarding ecological understanding. He discusses a knowledge gap, in which the general public does not have the ability to contemplate the ecological crisis that is happening. Secondly, (and I would argue more importantly), he suggests that there is a knowledge-action gap. This knowledge-action gap suggests that the general public, even if aware of the ecological crisis the world is facing, feels powerless to do something about it. The author advocates for K-12 education to provide skills to mitigate ecological crisis and to create sustainable communities. Henderson suggests that ecological literacy is extremely important.


I agree with the author that we desperately need to encourage ecological literacy in students. Climate change is a reality, regardless of what some politicians might say. I do feel that he should be looking towards Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding in his quest to improve the curriculum. I also think that real world examples of the impact of climate change on Indigenous communities (especially Northern communities) would be a way to humanize the Science, and give students a practical understanding of sustainability and environmental stewardship.


Integrating Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Science in Natural Resource Management: Perspectives from Australia- Ecology and Society Vol 18 No 3 Article 20

Author: Erin L. Bohensky, James R.A. Butler and Jocelyn Davies



This article begins by outlining Ecology and Society’s previous special issue from 2004 that focused specifically on the integration of Indigenous knowledge into scientific conceptualizations of ecology. This article deals specifically with natural resource management regarding Indigenous communities in Australia, but this is a huge issue in Canadian Indigenous communities as well. In particular, the current push for pipeline development, as well as resource extraction in Indigenous communities.


This article acknowledges that there has been an increased integration of Indigenous knowledge with science (referencing the early 2000’s). It also acknowledges the challenges when Indigenous communities assert their rights over resources, in that the integration can dilute the cultural meaning and undermine conceptions of equality due to pre-existing cultural and racial biases.


Indigenous ways of knowing were denigrated in the science community, but this attitude is changing. There is a long way to go to reconcile Indigenous knowledge with science. I feel that there needs to be an emphasis on collaboration, a sense of open-mindedness and respect.



Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

Government of Canada, Parks Canada Website



This is a Government of Canada website, and a subtopic under “Science and Conservation” section of the Parks Canada site. The landing page asserts: “Indigenous peoples have specialized and wide-ranging knowledge of the land and its ecology.” This is an explicit acknowledgement of the importance of Indigenous knowledge to environmental stewardship in Canada.


This site outlines numerous projects that highlight Indigenous collaboration and participation with Parks Canada staff. For example, Folly First Nation helped the salmon return to the Bay of Fundy, or restoring the clam gardens of the Coast Salish peoples.


Of course, it’s important to take this site with a grain of salt. This is a Government of Canada site and thus the information presented is likely to present the relationship between Indigenous people and the government in a positive light. That being said, I think it’s great to see that there are numerous projects that are happening in which Indigenous knowledge is integrating with science. Traditional knowledge about the environment should be playing a role in government policy development.


Towards An Understanding of the Ecology of Indigenous Education

Author: Angelina Weenie- First Nations University of Canada



This article looks at some of the challenges in implementing Indigenous education from an epistemological and ontological standpoint. The author begins the article with a beautiful and articulate introduction to herself. She explains that she is Nehiyawak (Cree) based upon her Indigenous identity. She goes on to state that she is by virtue of the 1867 Indian act a treaty Indian, and by virtue of the 1982 Constitution is is an Aboriginal Person. I think this is such a powerful way for the author to present herself, in that it speaks to the multiple ways in which Indigenous people conceptualize themselves, as well as the multiple way in which they are framed culturally or by the government.


Weenie advocates for curriculum to be developed within Indigenous communities as a way to foster and develop sustainability. Instead of depending on the pre-existing curriculum, curriculum needs to be developed in conjunction with Indigenous pedagogies that reference Indigenous ways of knowing.

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