Rethinking Intercultural Approaches to Indigenous Environmental Education and Research
Prelude: a tale of two first nations
Two Aboriginal1 communities in western Canada, Saddle Lake First Na- tion in Alberta and T’Sou-ke First Nation on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, have recently been capturing the attention of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders, scholars, and educators due to innovative environ- mental initiatives and associated social, economic and educational develop- ments. In Saddle Lake a revolutionary, low-impact water treatment system has attracted interest from other remote Aboriginal communities (Narine, 2009). Saddle Lake was once a highly polluted body of water; community members had to boil all water prior to consumption due to inadequate waste and fresh water treatment facilities (Drake, 2006). After repeated appeals, the commu- nity received financial assistance from the federal government to clean up the lake and develop a new water treatment system. Against the advice of gov- ernment and industry experts, Saddle Lake partnered with researchers from the University of Alberta to develop a revolutionary water treatment system. The project managers were influenced by the vision of their Elders to embrace modern science guided by traditional wisdom. As one participant commented, “It’s always been a desire of the Elders to embrace sound science and…tradi- tional holistic teachings to fashion healthy drinking water” (Narine, ¶ 6). 2 rethinking intercultural approaches Rather than using chemicals to treat their water, further tampering with the highly disturbed ecosystem, the Saddle Lake team developed a system that uses a non-invasive integrated membrane filter (Narine, 2009). Saddle Lake’s treatment system has been highly successful and is now in high demand across Canada....
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