By: Max Klein
On the afternoon of December 10th 2018 member the Indigenous EnvironmentalJustice Project arrived at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga. We were inspired by the beautiful new facilities at the school and the impressive hydroponics system used for growing vegetables on a green wall as a part of the schools environmental education initiative. We joined a large group of students in the Library to discuss the concepts of Indigenous Environmental Justice that are emerging from our ongoing research.
We began our presentation with a Land acknowledgement that expressed gratitude for all the caretakers of the Land, including the Plants, the Animals, the Water, the Earth, the Spirits and the Indigenous peoples including the current treaty holders, the Missisaugas of the New Credit. We introduced ourselves, our work and what brought us to the Environmental Studies program at York University. We read the Anishinaabe story of the great flood and asked the students to engage in a story-work session with us to facilitate their understanding of the teachings contained within the story and this traditional way of conveying knowledge orally through stories that is instrumental to Indigenous knowledge systems. Students did an excellent job of identifying key teachings from the story, including ecological knowledge, sacrifice, interdependence, collaboration and sharing. We played the students a video from the Chiefs of Ontario website which allowed them to hear the perspective of Indigenous youth and elders on matters of climate change. We concluded workshop with a word association exercise where we asked the students to write whatever came to their minds when they thought of concepts of Environment, Sustainability, Justice, Land and Water. After reviewing their responses we focussed our discussion on the contexts that student relate well to and reflected on why we chose these particular concepts for this exercise. The discussion was an excellent opportunity to nurture an in-depth understanding of Indigenous Environmental Justice with the students.