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Reconciliation in Forestry and Environmental Management Education & Research

UNB Fredericton’s Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management aims to the lead the university in Reconciliation, Decolonization and braiding Indigenous Knowledge, through the work of it’s Truth and Reconciliation committee and working group.

The Truth and Reconciliation Working Group (TRWG) in the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management (ForEM) has been working on Indigenizing the faculty, by that we mean bringing Indigenous Knowledge (IK) into all aspects of the faculty – the physical space, what is taught, how we teach, how we learn, and the way we act towards and think about IK.

The working group was formally established in 2016 and consists of individuals from ForEM staff, students and alumni. It is an open committee and any members of the ForEM community that are interested may join.

In 2017 the TRWG was successful in applying for a Post Secondary, Education, Training and Labour (PETL) Access and Success grant, to fund our efforts. This funding allowed the group to hire an Indigenous Masters level student to conduct background research on what other institutions have done/are doing in terms of Indigenization. This allowed us to learn from other institutions and give us the opportunity to emulate them. Secondly, these funds allowed the group to hire Cecelia Brooks to help develop a course on Indigenous issues, history and culture as it relates to forestry and environmental management, and to contract Cecelia to teach the course. In addition, guest speakers were brought in on various topics with Indigenous content, including Dr. Peggy Smith from Lakehead University, and Eli Enns from British Columbia.

Indigenous Issues in Environmental Stewardship

The course is now required for two streams within the BSc Environment and Natural Resources degree program (BScENR); Water Management and Environmental Management. Cecelia teaches with a style that resonates with Indigenous ways of knowing and learning, where the whole class sits in a talking circle and everyone has their chance to speak, ask questions, or otherwise participate. The class covers as much history as possible, since many students have little to no knowledge of the history of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (North America), in Wabanaki territory, and their relationship with and mistreatment by various colonial authorities. As students learn about history, treaties, ways of knowing, resource use and stewardship, and more, they are exposed to guest lecturers of various backgrounds – Wolastoqiyik Traditional Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick Legal Advisor Gillian Paul, Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. Director Forestry and Natural Resources Steve Ginnish, to name a few.

Coming Together, Learning Together: Indigenous outreach and Two-Eyed Seeing for the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management

The PETL funds were also used to hire Masters student Logan Keoughan to organize and run a 2-day workshop aimed at having Indigenous guest speakers present to the faculty on what they thought we should be doing, learning, paying attention to, and sharing their views and thoughts on environmental and resource management. Most presentations were scheduled into regular undergraduate course time in the fall term and were made mandatory for undergraduate students to attend. As well we had an evening featured keynote presentation by Clifford Paul, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources Moose Management Coordinator. There were also two talking circles where anyone was welcome to attend and share what they were feeling and thinking after each days’ sessions. In all we had 10 presentations, 12 guest speakers (11 of whom are Indigenous), one panel, two talking circles, and an opening and closing ceremony. Presentations included Mi’kmaq Moose management, Indigenous/Aboriginal Forestry in New Brunswick, Two Eyed Seeing and wildlife research, the importance of Indigenous languages and connection to the land, archaeology from an Indigenous perspective, Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, and a Treaty based outlook for Reconciliation on University campuses. The workshop was also supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Connection grant.
Follow-up interviews with guest speakers were conducted, and they shared that:

  • The event went well, and was a good first step forward.
  • It is was meaningful, valuable and worth attending.
  • They were pleased that the event was organized largely by allies, and gave space to Indigenous peoples to speak and share.
  • Indigenous speakers were consulted early, and during the process of organizing the event.
  • This is only a first, small step, and there remains much work to be done, but this was a good place to go forward from.

Moving Forward

The TRWG then hired Masters student Logan Keoughan full-time on a 6 month contract to continue to identify sources of funding, strengthen our relationships, and build new ones, with Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations, and identify projects for collaboration. We were also successful in securing an internship for Matthew Golding, a recent BScENR grad, who identifies as Indigenous and was part of a student panel during the Coming Together, Learning Together workshop. Matthew is hired through a Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) Indigenous Internship Program for which we are very grateful.
We continue to adapt to the new-normal placed upon by COVID-19, and move forward in our goals to braid Indigenous Knowledge, ways of knowing and ways of learning into the ForEM Faculty.