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Protest as Pedagogy

Teaching, Learning, and Indigenous Environmental Movements


Gregory Lowan-Trudeau

Written during a time characterized by catalyzing Indigenous environmental movements such as Idle No More, political upheaval, and the final years of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Protest as Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Indigenous Environmental Movements was motivated by Gregory Lowan-Trudeau’s personal experiences as an activist, educator, and researcher. Insights from interviews with activists and educators in a variety of school, community, and post-secondary contexts are presented in relation to teaching and learning during, and in response to, Indigenous environmental movements. Looking toward future possibilities, the rise of renewable energy development by Indigenous communities across Canada is also considered. Throughout Protest as Pedagogy, these inquiries are guided by a theoretical framework built on concepts such as decolonization, Herbert Marcuse’s repressive tolerance, Elliot Eisner’s three curricula, and broader fields of study such as social movement learning, critical media literacy, Indigenous media studies, and environmental communication.

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Chapter 5. From Reticence to Resistance: Understanding Educators’ Engagement with Indigenous Environmental Issues


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Understanding Educators’ Engagement with Indigenous Environmental Issues1

As discussed in earlier chapters, educators who introduce critical socio-ecological issues into learning contexts settings commonly experience tension with their students, colleagues, and administrators (Jickling, 2003; Niblett, 2008). This is especially true for educators attempting to facilitate consideration of environmental issues linked to Indigenous contexts as they are often faced with the challenge of not only providing historical and contemporary information, but also with disrupting deeply rooted colonial prejudices (Battiste, 2005). As presented in the following, such difficulties are often compounded for educators in both formal and informal educational contexts in Canada by an inadequate level of pre-service, curricular, resource, and research support in this area (Jardine, 2012; Ottmann & Pritchard, 2010; Tupper, 2014).

While an increasing number of bold educators are incorporating discussion of Indigenous environmental issues and related history, law, and policy into ← 91 | 92 → their teaching practice, many others are interested, but remain understandably reticent (Lowan-Trudeau, 2017a). Similar to those working in other sociocritical areas related to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and economics, they may be hesitant to engage with controversial topics due to a lack of confidence in their preparation, a desire to avoid conflict, and the potential for intersectional tensions and burnout faced by activist educators (Gorski & Chen, 2015).

Building on the study described in the previous chapter into the pedagogical experiences of leading Indigenous and allied environmental activists (Lowan-Trudeau,...

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