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Decolonizing Education to meet the Demands of Climate Change

This guide is for the use of instructors and students in the reACT Decolonizing Education Experiential Learning Program funded by the 2022-2023 TLTC Curriculum Grants. Specifically: ARCH460; ARCH478; ARCH601; ARCH678; CHBE473; ENCH648K; ENEE476; ENST415;


Ziehr, K. (2022) Decolonizing Environmental Education: A Resource Guide for Non-Indigenous Educators. Hamline University. The goals of environmental education generally include imparting in students a deeper understanding and connection with the natural world, an appreciation for systems of conservation and sustainability, and a capability to address interconnected issues of environment and climate. Within the United States, environmental education is typically taught as an objective (though sometimes controversial) science topic within the U.S. model of education, which is grounded in the ongoing processes of settler colonialism. Indigenous ways of knowing introduce needed perspectives and approaches to education that include holistic understandings of interdependence and connectedness. Many Indigenous traditions emphasize experiential learning that integrates diverse subjects and learning styles.  There is value placed on building community and social relationships, and intergenerational knowledge allows for long-term perspectives on environmental and social issues. Indigenous knowledge traditions are tied to the land and all of the living beings specific to that place, with successful and sustainable land stewardship and resource management practices going back centuries.

Reibold, K. (2022), Settler Colonialism, Decolonization, and Climate Change. Journal of Applied Philosophy. Special Issue.  The article proposes that climate change makes enduring colonial injustices and structures visible. It focuses on the imposition and dominance of colonial concepts of land and self-determination on Indigenous peoples in settler states. It argues that if the dominance of these colonial frameworks remains unaddressed, the progressing climate change will worsen other colonial injustices, too. Specifically, Indigenous self-determination capabilities will be increasingly undermined, and Indigenous peoples will experience the loss of what they understand as relevant land from within their own ontologies of land. The article holds that even if settler states strive to repair colonial injustices, these efforts will be unsuccessful if climate change occurs and decolonization is pursued within the framework of a settler colonial ontology of land. Therefore, the article suggests, decolonization of the ontologies of land and concepts of self-determination is a precondition for a just response to climate change.

Kulago, H. et al., (2021). Land, water, mathematics, and relationships: What does creating decolonizing and Indigenous curricula ask of us? Educational Studies, 57(3), 345-363. Indigenous epistemologies view a person as a whole, interconnected to land, in relationship to others. Knowledge is subjective and collective. However, hegemonic western knowledge created dualism that are perpetuated through western schooling with detrimental effects on Indigenous knowledge systems and livelihood. The dualisms separate mind from body, body from nature, and spirit from matter which led to western schooling practices that support goals of settler colonialism including dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands. This article presents theoretical and conceptual discussions, personal reflections, and relationship-building the authors engaged while creating decolonizing and Indigenous syllabi in the fields of environmental studies, philosophy, and mathematics education at the university level. Engaging these processes disrupts the separation created through western dualisms and move toward reconnection as an initial step in creating decolonizing curricula, shifting dominant curricula organized through the logics of settler colonialism, to curricula that envision and support Indigenous nations and sovereignty.

Duquette, K. (2020) Environmental Colonialism. Environmental colonialism refers to the various ways in which colonial practices have impacted the natural environments of Indigenous peoples. 

Lowan-Trudeau, G. (2019) Gatekeeper or gardener? Exploring positioning, paradigms, and metaphors in indigenous environmental education research, The Journal of Environmental Education, 50:4-6, 348-357. In this article, I autoethnographically consider my experiences as a Métis scholar of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry based in Canada as an entry point for exploration of critical, interpretive, Indigenous and other traditional and contemporary research paradigms relevant to the field of Indigenous environmental education. Foundational scholarship, metaphorical models for the relationships between Western and Indigenous science and environmental knowledge systems, educators, and researchers, and current trends and tensions within the field are also discussed. In closing, I present future considerations and lingering questions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars alike.

Arsenault, R., et al. (2019) Including Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Environmental Assessments: Restructuring the ProcessGlobal Environmental Politics 2019; 19 (3): 120–132. Indigenous peoples around the world are concerned about the long-term impacts of industrial activities and natural resource extraction projects on their traditional territories. Environmental impact studies, environmental risk assessments (EAs), and risk management protocols are offered as tools that can address some of these concerns. However, these tools are not universally required in jurisdictions, and this Forum intervention considers whether these technical tools might be reshaped to integrate Indigenous communities’ interests, with specific attention to traditional knowledge. Challenges include unrealistic timelines to evaluate proposed projects, community capacity, inadequate understanding of Indigenous communities, and ineffective communication all of which contribute to pervasive distrust in EAs by many Indigenous communities. Despite efforts to address these problems, substantive inequities persist in the way that EAs are conducted as infringement continues on constitutionally protected Indigenous rights. This article highlights challenges within the EA process and presents pathways for improving collaboration and outcomes with Indigenous communities.

Harmin, M., et al., (2017) Stretching the boundaries of transformative sustainability learning: On the importance of decolonizing ways of knowing and relations with the more-than-human. Environmental Education Research, 23:10, 1489-1500. This paper chronicles students’ experiences of transformative sustainability learning through ‘epistemological stretching’ – a pedagogical orientation which focuses on expanding the ways of knowing that someone respects, understands, and/or engages with. With a particular emphasis on decolonizing relations between humans and the more-than-human, epistemological stretching enables students to articulate and critically engage with the epistemologies of their academic fields, gain new(old) perspectives on relations with the more-than-human, and interact with Indigenous knowledges in more effective and ethical ways. Students in this study experienced powerful learning outcomes in the following areas: reconceptualization of relationships, acknowledgment, and deconstruction of power, and worldview bridging. Some students also received validation for ways of knowing that they previously engaged in but were unsure about expressing in academic contexts.

Tuck, E., & McKenzie, M. (2015). Place in research: theory, methodology, and methods. Routledge. Bridging environmental and Indigenous studies and drawing on critical geography, spatial theory, new materialist theory, and decolonizing theory, this dynamic volume examines the sometimes overlooked significance of place in social science research. There are often important divergences and even competing logics at work in these areas of research, some which may indeed be incommensurable. This volume explores how researchers around the globe are coming to terms - both theoretically and practically - with place in the context of settler colonialism, globalization, and environmental degradation. Tuck and McKenzie outline a trajectory of critical place inquiry that not only furthers empirical knowledge, but ethically imagines new possibilities for collaboration and action. Critical place inquiry can involve a range of research methodologies; this volume argues that what matters is how the chosen methodology engages conceptually with place in order to mobilize methods that enable data collection and analyses that address place explicitly and politically. Unlike other approaches that attempt to superficially tag on Indigenous concerns, decolonizing conceptualizations of land and place and Indigenous methods are central, not peripheral, to practices of critical place inquiry.

Calderon, D. (2014) Uncovering Settler Grammars in Curriculum, Educational Studies, 50:4, 313-338, In this article, I focus on making settler colonialism explicit in education. I turn to social studies curriculum as a clear example of how settler colonialism is deeply embedded in educational knowledge production in the United States that is rooted in a dialectic of Indigenous presence and absence. I argue that the United States, and the evolution of its schooling system in particular, are drenched in settler colonial identities. Thus, to begin to decolonize we must first learn to account for settler colonialism. To do so necessitates that we grapple with the dialectic of Indigenous presence and absence that is central to settler colonialism in the United States and its social studies curriculum.

Irlbacher-Fox, S. (2014) Traditional knowledge, co-existence, and co-resistance. University of Alberta. This article examines the ways in which settler privilege lies as the basis of injustice and, consequently, why overcoming this privilege is a form of co-resistance central to co-existence. By looking at scholarly debates around Traditional Knowledge, specifically in the area of resource co-management, the author situates those debates as an example of settler colonial privilege, an insight further developed through a discussion of settler colonialism and its relationship with notions of being an ally. Drawing on examples of land-based education experiences and working with Dene Elders, the author analyzes ways in which settler colonialism manifests and can be explored through actions, self-reflection and relationships. The author draws on the Dene understanding as co-existence as a basis for understanding the significance and implications of self-decolonization for ensuring respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Bioneers (2014). Bioneers: indigenous essentials. volume 1. DVD. This profoundly wise Collection offers knowledge and cultural wisdom from our "old-growth" indigenous cultures for how all people can "re-indigenize" ourselves on planet Earth. It's rich with ancient wisdom and contemporary adaptive strategies for a sustainable, just and wise world."--Container.

Nelson, M. K. (2008). Original instructions: indigenous teachings for a sustainable future. Bear & Company. Original Instructions evokes the rich indigenous storytelling tradition in this collection of presentations gathered from the annual Bioneers conference. It depicts how the world's native leaders and scholars are safeguarding the original instructions, reminding us about gratitude, kinship, and a reverence for community and creation. Included are more than 20 contemporary indigenous leaders--such as Chief Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Winona LaDuke, and John Trudell. These beautiful, wise voices remind us where hope lies.