Opening an eye to Indigenous knowledge in forestry education

The University of New Brunswick is looking to add Indigenous knowledge to its forestry and environmental management curriculum and research.

It’s hosting a two-day conference Thursday and Friday that will bring together Indigenous elders and forestry professionals.

“If we want to collaborate and manage the resources in Canada or Turtle Island, then we need to have more understanding and more knowledge and start relationships early,” said Logan Keoughan, who is organizing the event as his master’s project in environmental management.

The conference will feature speakers such as Clifford Paul, who has been involved in drafting a Mi’kmaq management plan for moose in the Cape Breton Highlands.

He’s to make a presentation Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at MacLaggan Hall.

A keynote speaker Thursday evening will share his experience engaging the Mi’kmaq community in moose management in the Cape Breton Highlands. (Parks Canada)

The whole workshop, called Coming Together, Learning Together, is open to the public. The other sessions all take place in and around the Forestry and Geology Building.

“If we’re trying to deal with a lot of these major environmental issues — losing species, climate change — I think it’s a huge benefit to start looking at things maybe a little differently.”

The theme of the conference is two-eyed seeing.

That refers to a view that’s both Western-scientific and Indigenous.

“You’re trying to look with both of those eyes together to solve problems,” said Keoughan.

“We’re obviously a scientific-based faculty, but I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t sort of go about what we’re doing with two-eyed seeing in mind.”

Amanda Reid is UNB’s Piluwitahasuwin, a Wolastoqey word meaning ‘one who promotes change in a good way toward truth.’ She’ll speak at the forestry and environmental management workshop Friday at 2:30 p.m. (University of New Brunswick)

Keoughan said UNB recently introduced an undergraduate course called Issues in Indigenous Environmental Stewardship.

It deals with treaty rights and is required for students in two streams of the environment and natural resources program.

“We’re getting there,” Keoughan said.

Otherwise, forestry students are only exposed to a “patchwork” of Indigenous guest speakers.

UNB’s vice-president of Indigenous engagement will also speak at the conference.

Amanda Reid, Piluwitahasuwin at UNB, is giving a lecture called, “Moving forward, treaties at UNB”. She says honouring the peace and friendship treaties to create change at UNB will ensure indigenous people are adequately represented in both the student population and faculty. 9:17

Amanda Reid said her lecture will be about ways for the university and the faculty of forestry and environmental sciences to align themselves with the Peace and Friendship Treaties, which are supposed to define the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this area.

“We are in a critical moment in time,” said Reid.

Wide-sweeping commitments have been made to engage in reconciliation, but many people aren’t quite sure how to go about it.

“Sometimes people can become stagnated by fear of misstepping or doing something wrong.”

Reid hopes the workshop will give participants confidence to take action.

The university also needs more Indigenous students, faculty and staff to lead work that undoes the harms of colonization, she said.

“University leaders should be looking at building critical masses of Indigenous people in their programs.”

And key to improving Indigenous recruitment and retention, she said, is having cultural resources and Indigenous people in faculties.

UNB also has an Indigenous nursing initiative and its faculty of education has launched a bachelor of education degree with an emphasis on Wabanaki worldviews. 

“There is certainly work being done to bridge that gap,” she said, adding there is also much more work to do. 

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