March 13, 2014

What we can learn from indigenous philosophies and knowledge

New Ideas in Education speaker series to contrast understandings of the natural world
Greg Lowan-Trudeau's March 18 Engaging New Ideas in Education talk will focus on new immigrants to Canada and their perspectives on Indigenous education.

Greg Lowan-Trudeau's talk will focus on new immigrants' perspectives on Indigenous education.

Clayton MacGillivray

The first waves of Canadian colonizers and settlers came primarily from Europe and brought with them their own perspectives on science, ecology, and land use.

More often than not, these western viewpoints clashed with indigenous understandings of the natural world developed over thousands of years of living in particular territories.

Over time, immigration to Canada from other parts of the world has steadily increased. Recent arrivals from non-European cultures may have an understanding of western science and philosophy, but they may also carry indigenous understandings linked to their home territories. 

As such, science and environmental educators in Alberta and other provinces are increasingly encouraged to consider indigenous knowledge and philosophies in addition to western science in order to recognize and engage with the cultural traditions of all students.

“For example, in Calgary today you might find a classroom made up of a range of students who are indigenous, Euro-Canadian, and recently arrived from Africa, Asia, or other parts of the world,” says Gregory Lowan-Trudeau, assistant professor in the Werklund School of Education.

Lowan-Trudeau, who is also a member of the Werklund School’s Indigenous Task Force, explored the experiences of recent immigrants with indigenous ecological knowledge in a recent pilot study, curious to understand how their perspectives might compare with indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians who have been in the country for generations.

As a Métis scholar and educator, Lowan-Trudeau is particularly interested in the relationships between different culturally based ecological knowledge systems and the broader societal implications of such inquiries for addressing complex socio-ecological issues.

“As a student, educator,and researcher, I have experienced and observed the rich possibilities and complexities of applying such understandings in practice.”

On March 18, Lowan-Trudeau will present the findings of his research in a talk entitled Three-Eyed Seeing? Considering Indigenous Ecological Knowledge in Diverse Pedagogical Contexts, as part of the Werklund School’s Engaging New Ideas in Education speaker series. 


Lowan-Trudeau’s study emerged in response to previous research conducted with indigenous and non-indigenous environmental educators who draw from both western and indigenous traditions to inform their teaching philosophies and practices. “One of the consistent messages conveyed by these educators was the importance of not only considering the experiences of indigenous and non-indigenous students whose families have been in Canada for several generations, but also those more recently arrived.”

The talk begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to all. Lowan-Trudeau suggests it will be of interest to educators, researchers, parents, teachers, students, professionals, and administrators interested in the possibilities of or currently engaging with such complexities in all areas of study.