Amplifying Indigenous Voices in Environmental Education

Indigenous Voices Environmental Education

Written by:
Nazish Qureshi, Program Manager at GreenLearning

June is Indigenous History Month in Canada, serving as a reminder to celebrate the many Indigenous communities across Canada. I begin by acknowledging that I work and live in Moh’kinsstis (MOH kin stis) - the Blackfoot name of the land we have come to know as Calgary. I acknowledge the traditional territories and oral practices of the peoples of Treaty 7 in Southern Alberta - the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the tribes of the Siksika, the Pikani, the Kainai, the Îyâxe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nations tribes of Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley and the Tsuu’tina First Nation. Moh’kinsstis (Calgary) is also homeland to the historic Northwest Métis and to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

I also acknowledge that the GreenLearning team is spread across the many traditional lands of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. To learn more about the Indigenous land you are on, visit I want to take a moment to reflect on what it means to acknowledge and honour the truth of the land we stand on. Words - whether written or spoken - hold power, as they are the vessels through which we can preserve truth. However, words alone are not sufficient as words without action cannot bring truth to life. This statement of reconciliation and solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples calls for demonstrating solidarity through action.

In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, GreenLearning is committed to amplifying the voices of Indigenous professionals and Indigenous communities across Canada when addressing climate change, transitioning to a green economy and conserving the environment. At GreenLearning, we believe in equipping youth with a diversified set of tools and knowledge in order to enable them to become the green leaders of our future. We admire the beautiful and diverse cultures of the Indigenous Peoples of these lands and seek to learn from them on how to live in harmony with nature. By collaborating with Indigenous professionals and Indigenous-led organizations in Canada, GreenLearning aims to make the rich Traditional Knowledge of Indigenous communities across Canada accessible to our youth.

In the children’s book Sila and the Land which GreenLearning had the honour of financially supporting, young learners are invited to explore various lessons about the importance of land and our responsibility in protecting it through Indigenous teachings. This book was developed as part of our program Climate Action 150, in collaboration with Connected North. Sila and the Land, together with our program Climate Action 150, aim to bring the perspectives of Indigenous youth on climate change to learners across Canada by exploring how Indigenous Peoples connect to their land and the significant and unique challenges their communities face due to impacts of climate change. Sila and the Land was co-authored by three incredibly inspiring Indigenous youth: Ariana Roundpoint, a writer of the wolf clan of the Kanien’kehakah people, born and raised in Akwesasne; Shelby Angalik, a writer from Arviat Nunavut, an Inuit hamlet on the western shore of Hudson Bay; and Lindsay DuPré, a Métis social worker and educator based in Southern Ontario. The beautiful illustrations for Sila and the Land were developed by Halie Finney, an artist of Métis heritage from the Lesser Slave Lake region of Alberta.

GreenLearning recognizes that climate change is not linear - a mere cause and effect phenomenon with one event resulting in the occurrence of another. From drastic decline in biodiversity to the onset of a new wave of human migration caused by climate change, we continue to experience and learn more about the complex and interconnected impacts that climate change poses on a scale that is hard to comprehend. However, we recognize a unifying element in this global climate crisis - the right of every human to have the same liberties and opportunities to live on this planet, from coast to coast to coast. It has become increasingly evident that impacts of climate change cannot be studied in isolation. Instead, we need to adopt an intersectional lens when exploring ways in which we can mitigate the causes of climate change and how we can adapt to its foreseeable impacts.

Only through an intersectional lens can we recognize that climate change disproportionately impacts some communities over others in Canada and around the world. As such, the Indigenous Peoples across Canada are disproportionately impacted by climate change - one example of this is how the livelihood of the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic is drastically impacted by climate change with the melting of the sea ice, as explored in our activity Spark Climate Conversations: Climate Justice in the Canadian Arctic. Developed in collaboration with Mihskakwan James Harper, a passionate renewable energy professional of Nehiyaw (Cree) descent from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, located in Treaty 8 territory (northern Alberta), Spark Climate Conversations include guided conversations to reinforce the importance of recognizing elements of climate justice when studying impacts of climate change and what action can be taken by youth in addressing issues of climate justice. GreenLearning strongly believes in providing educational resources to learners that emphasize such issues of justice and equity when exploring solutions for the climate crisis. In particular, the need for honouring the voices of Indigenous communities by effectively engaging with them through appropriate channels when exploring government policy solutions for climate change, as explored in our Decoding Carbon: A Climate Policy Quest program activity, Climate Change Policy and Indigenous Relations.

In addition to amplifying Indigenous voices in our work, GreenLearning also champions and advocates for a full integration of Indigenous perspectives in provincial education curricula across Canadian provinces, in the hopes that our youth can lead the way in restoring this Earth back to its natural state and building a more equitable world in the process. Recently, GreenLearning joined the Alberta Council for Environmental Education in providing feedback on the draft K-6 curriculum proposed by the Government of Alberta - ensuring the curriculum offers a balanced perspective when exploring the issues of climate change and environmental conservation, with a specific emphasis on the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and voices.

We also recognize and celebrate the incredible work of the following Indigenous-led organizations that we have engaged with on numerous occasions and invite our readers to explore their work and benefit from the amazing resources they have to offer:

  • Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise - is a pan-Canadian non-profit that advances Indigenous inclusion in Canada’s energy futures economy through Indigenous leadership and broad-based collaboration with energy companies, utilities, governments, development firms, clean tech innovators, academic sector, and capital markets.

  • Future Ancestors Services Inc. - is an Indigenous and Black-owned, youth-led professional services social enterprise that advances climate justice and systemic barrier removal with lenses of restorative anti-racism and ancestral accountability.

  • Connected North - TakingITGlobal - is an organization that fosters student engagement and enhanced education outcomes in remote Indigenous communities. This leading edge program delivers immersive and interactive education services, through Cisco's high definition, two-way TelePresence video technology. The program is made possible through a strong ecosystem of supporters with program delivery managed by TakingITGlobal.

GreenLearning acknowledges the need for reconciliation with Indigenous communities across Canada, and particularly echoes the Calls for Action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Council within Canadian education. In light of this, GreenLearning recognizes the need for the great amount of work that has yet to be done to address these calls for action. GreenLearning also identifies the need for increased inclusion of voices of all diverse backgrounds that make the fabric of the Canadian nation at large in environmental education - in particular when addressing issues of climate change, energy transition and green economy. This Indigenous History Month, we renew our commitment to continue our work with the specific goal of amplifying and bringing in Indigenous voices in our future work. We urge all educators to commit to taking meaningful action for the inclusion of the diverse Indigenous voices in Canadian education.

Photo source: Unsplash

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