Re/Imagining Indigenous – Western Knowledge Relationships A Case Study, Trent University Indigenous Environmental Studies Program
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The past few decades has seen recognition of the vital role Indigenous peoples and their knowledges play in conceptualizing solutions for the environmental issues facing the world. With political support from governments, the UN and environmental groups, knowledge integration between Eurocentric western and Aboriginal knowledges is increasingly sought after. However, in Canada and the US the current state of knowledge integration practices tends to be extensions of a long-standing history of imperial and colonial attitudes and treatment towards Indigenous peoples. Despite the legacy of colonialism, Indigenous peoples are engaging in decolonization and resurgence efforts to restore their own cultural practices and integration methods. Research and Education are two of the main practices which employ Western- Indigenous knowledge integration methods which are explored within this major paper. In this paper I explore the current theories and practices surrounding Indigenous-Western knowledge integration within environmental education and research contexts. I approach these subjects respectfully as a woman of euro-Canadian ancestry, raised with significant influences from the Catholic Church and education system and make every effort to acknowledge my privileges and inherent biases throughout the paper. As an ally to Indigenous revitalization, a significant portion of the paper is dedicated to giving space and voice to Indigenous authors and Indigenous approaches to these topics. I also introduce an Appreciative Inquiry research methodology as Indigenous Research Methodology as a means for which allies can approach an Indigenous Research Methodology. Finally, this paper explores the creation and implementation of the Trent University Indigenous Environmental Studies program, the first degree granting program of its kind in North America. It examines the evolutionary process of the program, its influencing philosophies, individuals and conditions. It also evaluates the program in the context of the Naturalized Knowledge Systems framework originally put forth by Henry Lickers, identifies areas of strength and concern. It is the ultimate aspiration of myself as well as the program director that this paper ultimately serves to inform other individuals/institutions as to one example of how to foster an academic environment of knowledge integration.