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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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Introduction and Overview



Popular, independent, and social media in Canada are filled with stories of conflict related to natural resource development and exploitation in Indigenous territories. Protest and advocacy in response to proposed pipelines such as Northern Gateway, Energy East, and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion; hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) in Mi’qmaqi/New Brunswick; and social movements such as Idle No More are often motivated by inadequate recognition by government, industry, and much of Canadian society of Indigenous treaty and Aboriginal rights. As such, advocates and activists are bringing such issues into broader societal consideration and discussion.

Similar actions in the United States such as the Standing Rock resistance to the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline expansion that also implicates Canada are indicative of the international nature of such dynamics. Such instances of activism and advocacy occur in the broader context of social and environmental justice movements such as Occupy, Arab Spring, Black Lives ← 1 | 2 → Matter, the Women’s March, and other responses or lack thereof, to international trade and environmental agreements, and sociopolitical oppression (Lowan-Trudeau & Niblett, 2017).

Towards a Critical Understanding of Indigenous Rights

The reverence for and maintenance of longstanding reciprocal relationships with specific geographical areas is a key aspect of Indigenous cultures around the world (Cajete, 1994). This is certainly the case in Canada, where Indigenous peoples across the country have developed and maintained intricate relationships with particular territories prior to and after contact with Europeans and other settler groups (Simpson, 2002)...

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