Indigenizing Canadian Environmental Identities

A two-day workshop in Toronto at the Garage, Centre for Social Innovation – Annex (720 Bathurst St.)

When: Saturday, February 24th (10– 5) and
Sunday, February 25th (10– 1), 2018

Registration: $100 per ENGO representative.
Lunch (NishDish) provided.
If the cost of registration represents a barrier to your participation please contact Paul Bubelis.

We want to support the development of a cross-cultural understanding about environmental identity and eventually help build relationships between ENGO leaders and Indigenous knowledge keepers.

One of the barriers to effective working relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous environmental leaders is a difference in worldview on how humans relate to, care for, and identify with land. The difference in values is particularly evident when discussing ‘land ownership’, ‘stewardship’ or ‘parks and protected areas’. These concepts convey dominion and control over land as opposed to an inherent responsibility for and reciprocal relationship with land. Until a shared understanding of each other’s environmental identity is cultivated, leaders cannot build relationships rooted in trust.

This one and a half day workshop is designed to initiate a process whereby ENGO leaders engage in a process of indigenizing the civil society sector. By ‘indigenizing’, we mean making space for inherent Indigenous leaders to use their knowledge to fulfill their responsibilities to peoples and place. Exploration of this approach will be facilitated by two leading facilitators and a number of inherent indigenous leaders (knowledge keepers, Elders, heads of clans, etc.). This effort is intended to be a modest but important next step in the evolution of ENGO-Indigenous relations in Ontario.

Increasingly, ENGO’s are partnering with and supporting informal Indigenous leaders, such as knowledge keepers, Elders, Clan leaders, and thought leaders. ENGOs can play a role in reconciliation by forming partnerships with inherent leaders, so long as such work is done in ethical and anti-colonial ways. From Indigenous perspectives, reconciliation is not about “fitting” Indigenous peoples into existing legal, political and cultural Canadian frameworks; it is about making space for the resurgence of inherent Indigenous political, legal, and intellectual orders.

Our vision for this project is to work with ENGO leaders, inherent indigenous leaders and 2 facilitators from Ontario First Nations with support from Sustainability Network where required. The session will be organized around the following ideas:

– the role positionality plays in relationships, cross-cultural relationships, and therefore reconciliation
– emerging environmental identities from the group e.g. ‘stewards’, ‘nature lover’, ‘policy advocate’, ‘conservationist’, etc. and the underlying values of each identity
– storytelling: how have these identities and positionalities benefited or caused conflict in ENGO work with Indigenous leaders
– Indigenous-ENGO relations through a settler-colonial lens
– developing list of practices, skills, resources for working with inherent Indigenous leaders
– beyond intellectualizing, Indigenous perspective of spending time outside as connecting with the land
– exploring Indigenous perspectives of environmental identity
– Lessons from Indigenous Creation Stories (responsibility vs right, what is meant by living in a good way)
– Supporting political decolonization on Reserves by enabling informal leaders
– the roles Indigenous Peoples have in guiding Canadian environmentalism (e.g.- educators, policy advisors, environmental assessment processes, etc.)
– Spending time in the out of doors nourishes the soul and helps us to build our knowledge together

Lead facilitator Dr. Damien Lee is a member of the Fort William Indian Band, located near Thunder Bay, Ontario. He began his career working for First Nations’ environmental programs, and later worked for environmental NGOs across Canada and in Europe. Today, Damien’s work focuses on the resurgence of inherent Indigenous governance systems. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

Co-facilitator Kathleen Ryan’s (Anungkwe) work is centred on supporting First Nations and includes a focus on ensuring meaningful inclusion of First Nations knowledge and ways of knowing. Kathleen has also been involved in creating partnerships between ENGOs. Kathleen holds a BSc. in Indigenous Environmental Science and an MSc. sponsored and in collaboration with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. Kathleen is currently a senior coordinator at the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environment Office.

This initiative is organized by the Sustainability Network and made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada, the McConnell Foundation, and the Government of Canada and funding provided by Lush and the Catherine Donnelly Foundation. We would also want to thank the Centre for Social Innovation for their support.

List of Participants