What can we learn from First Nations environmental activism?
Werklund’s Greg Lowan-Trudeau receives SSHRC Insight Grant to develop teaching resources based on indigenous protests
If you Google the phrase “current indigenous land claims Canada,” the query will return a surprising number of entries on the topic. Disputes over land use, resource development, and ecological issues in indigenous territories throughout Canada are widespread.
That’s no surprise to Greg Lowan-Trudeau, who has a background in land-based education and environmental activism. The assistant professor in the Werklund School of Education says socio-ecological conflicts often highlight regional and national tensions.
But, he says, they also hold the potential to serve as teaching opportunities for individuals, communities, and institutions. And he’s been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant to learn more about how activism and protest can translate into lessons in the classroom.
Protests point to contemporary issues
“Whether they realize it or not, protesters often serve a pedagogical function by drawing attention to and raising awareness of contemporary issues,” he says.
Educators interested in introducing critical issues into learning contexts often run into challenges, and Lowan-Trudeau believes this is especially the case when both indigenous and environmental issues are involved.
“Compounding such difficulties for educators is an inadequate level of pre-service, curricular, resource, and research support in this area,” he says. “And even though an increasing number of educators are incorporating discussion of indigenous environmental activism and related history, law, and policy into their teaching practice, many others are interested, but because they are unsure of how to proceed, they remain hesitant. “
Greater understanding of indigenous environmental activism
Lowan-Trudeau’s Insight Development Grant for his project, “From Reticence to Resistance: Exploring Educators’ Engagement with Indigenous Environmental Activism,” will allow him to build on his recent inquiry into the pedagogical experiences of leading indigenous and allied environmental activists and educators. He plans to then explore the experiences of educators who are interested in, but have yet to incorporate, critical content and discussion related to indigenous environmental activism into their teaching practice.
Ultimately, Lowan-Trudeau anticipates that his findings will serve to support and inform educators, academics, administrators, and leaders of government and indigenous communities in developing future initiatives, resources, curricula, and partnerships in the area of indigenous environmental rights and education.