Indigenous Environmental Justice Research Symposium 2016

Indigenous Environmental Justice Knowledge Sharing Symposium

Pictured: Autumn Peltier

The Indigenous Environmental Justice Knowledge Sharing Symposium, held on May 26, 2016 at York University, was a forum for sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences to help us understand what Indigenous Environmental Justice (IEJ) means. This symposium brought together activists, youth, women, artists, Elders, scholars, environmental practitioners, advocates and community members. The dialogue advanced the theory and practice of environmental justice scholarship by engaging with Indigenous peoples to more fully develop the concept of ‘justice’ and the policies and laws necessary to enable just relations. Nearly 100 people attended in person, with an additional 339 people from 10 countries attending through the livestream option. All presentations were recorded and are now available via the IEJ Project’s website.

During the symposium, two questions were put to the speakers:

• What does environmental justice mean in Canada, in an Indigenous context and from an Indigenous perspective?
• What is currently known about IEJ in Canada?

Highlights from the Indigenous Environmental Justice Knowledge Sharing Symposium

Download the IEJ Symposium Highlights Report

IEJ Symposium highlights, a participatory video project by Kelly King, Morgan Johnson, and Oonagh Butterfield


IEJ Speaker and Resource People



Josephine Mandamin
Josephine Mandamin is a First Nations elder who has "walked the equivalent of half the earth's circumference" to build awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of the water. In February 2016, Mandamin received the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation at a ceremony held at Queen's Park. Mandamin is one of seven recipients of the award for volunteer contributions to the conservation of community heritage over a period of more than 25 years.
kyle-white  Kyle Whyte
Whyte holds the Timnick Chair in the Humanities and is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. He is a faculty member of the Environmental Philosophy & Ethics graduate program and serves as a faculty affiliate of the American Indian Studies and Environmental Science & Policy programs. His primary research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples and the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and climate science organizations.
Dan Longboat
Dan Longboat is Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River. He is Director of the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program at Trent. Longboat is known for his Traditional Haudenosaunee knowledge and has taught Mohawk culture at Trent in addition to his work in Indigenous Environmental Studies. He is co-editor of the book Contemporary Studies in Environmental and Indigenous Pedagogies: A Curricula of Stories and Place (Sense Publishers, 2013).
Ingrid Waldron
Ingrid Waldron is an associate professor and health researcher at Dalhousie’s School of Nursing studying environmental racism in Nova Scotia. Her recent projects focus on how the location of African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities near environmental hazards affects the health of citizens in the community.
Susan Chiblow
Chiblow has worked extensively with First Nation communities for the last twenty years in environmental related fields and has made numerous First Nation contacts. Her work included providing environmental information to the First Nation leaders in Ontario and their communities on environmental initiatives such the waters, forestry, contaminants, energy and species at risk.
Dawn Martin-Hill
Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk, Wolf Clan) holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and is one of the original founders of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. Her research includes Indigenous knowledge and cultural conservation, Indigenous women, traditional medicine and health and the contemporary practice of Indigenous traditionalism.
Nancy Deleary
Nancy Deleary is an Independent Artist and a member of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. She earned her Bachelor of Fine at The Institute of American Indian Art and finished her Masters of Fine Art at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her goal is to build a place of learning and creativity through an artist’s studio and gallery on the First Nation. See Nancy's art andartist statements for the pieces that will be at the symposium here.
Kathleen Padulo
Kathleen Padulo is from the Oneida Nation of the Thames and has 15 years working experience in planning, developing and coordinating programs with Aboriginal organizations and First Nations communities. She holds an honors degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University.
Ruth Koleszar-Green
Ruth Koleszar-Green is a Mohawk woman and a member of the Turtle clan. As a teacher, Ruth utilizes Onkwehonwe pedagogies including storytelling, experiential learning, and reciprocal relationship building. She has engaged multiple Onkwehonwe communities in research projects that include HIV/AIDS, food security, and education.
Annie Clair
Annie Clair is a grandmother of four and mother of four. Annie is a Mikmaq
land defender from Elispogtog N.B. She also does a Mikmaq and English Podcast which can be found on her website:
This September, Annie will be going to Queens University to pursue a degree in Culture Studies.
Charlene Lindsay
Charlene is the co-founder of SDNR for First Nations Consulting Group. Throughout her career, she has focused on First Nations treaty negotiations and their relationship to sustainability and economic development, with a particular focus on mining, forestry, and oil extraction initiatives.
Although she assists the SDNR team with the development of workshops, management consulting, sustainable infrastructure planning, and responding to RFP’s, she is also passionate about the complex issues surrounding the Residential School Systems and the intergenerational trauma passed down from the survivors. Charlene was born in northern Alberta to a mother of Cree origins and a father of British descent.Charlene also holds a specialized Diploma in Business and the Environment from Schulich School of Business, as well as an Entrepreneur Development Training certificate.
Debby Wilson Danard
Debby Wilson Danard, PhD (candidate), Anishinaabekwe, is a traditional knowledge keeper, teacher, water ambassador, academic and Life promotion activist. She currently works as a Youth Suicide Prevention Coach with communities in Ontario to plan and mobilize evidence-informed practices for youth suicide prevention and life promotion. Living and teaching from a traditional knowledge perspective is how she envisions LIFE sustainable communities. She brings her vision of Indigenous worldview to participants in the WHRI, hosted in Toronto on traditional First Nation lands.
Cynthia Tomlinson
Cynthia Tomlinson is a citizen and resident of the Lubicon Lake Nation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Lethbridge where she specialized in Native American Studies with a strong focus in law. She has worked for the Lubicon Lake Nation in various capacities and currently serves an Elected Councillor of the Government of the Lubicon Lake Nation. Cynthia holds a position as a Research Assistant for Athabasca University and is assisting in the compilation of historical and contemporary social data to highlight a First Nation's legal and social orders from a contemporary viewpoint.
Arvol Looking Horse
Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s vast knowledge of the Lakota language, history, ceremonial songs and prayers, protection of the Sacred Black Hills, was recognized by the University of South Dakota with an honorary Doctorate He is Lakota, born on Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota. His primary responsibility is as the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe - at the age of twelve, the youngest in Sioux history, the spiritual leader to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. He grew up in an era of religious suppression, ceremonies were outlawed in both the US and Canada from the early 1900’s and repealed in 1970’s. His family was forced to hold Sundance, sweatlodge, vision quests and healing ceremonies underground for fear of arrest by the police that persecuted and imprisonment.His early life was dedicated to religious freedom and he won religious freedom in 1973 as it was repealed in the Indian Act and now advocates restoration of their rights to the Black Hills.As the founder and leader of World Peace and Prayer Day/Honouring Sacred Sites Day, has been advocating, helping and supporting all Indigenous people to protect land, rights, language, ceremonies and Indigenous knowledge. Arvol has, and still continues to facilitate healing to all people and cultures such as the Bigfoot Memorial Ride mending the Sacred Hoop broken during the Massacre OF wounded Knee the Unity Ride from B.C. to Six Nations from 2000-2004 on horseback to heal historical trauma through the land and animals.He has lectured in several Educational Institutions, such as: Harvard; Yale, University of Minnesota Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Morris; Stanford University; University of Illinois University of Lincoln Nebraska; University of Washington; Mac Master's University in Hamilton; Ontario; University of Manitoba in Winnipeg; Ashland Environmental College; Santa Fe Indian Art School; Martin Luther King Center; University of Portland Oregon; University of California Los Angeles; University of Montana Missoula; University of North Dakota Grand Forks; Dartmouth University; University of Massachusetts Boston; Ogden University to name a few.  

Arvol’s advocacy of environmental and Indigenous rights and issues has been recognized globally as a recipient of the Wolf Award of Canada, Juliet Hollister Award, a Non-Governmental Organization with Consultation Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. He is the author of White Buffalo Teachings and a guest columnist for Indian Country Today. Fighting to keep our environment safe through advocating at the United Nations warranted acknowledgment from President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama. Arvol is the proud father of two children, Makasa and Cody Looking Horse and continues to adopt many, many more as his own, in the spirit of his ancestors, care deeply for the coming generations.

Lynzii Taibossigai
Lynzii Taibossigai is Anishinaabe kwe from M’Chigeeng First Nation and Manitoulin Island. She is the proud Auntie of three nephews and one niece and has over 160 cousins! She has a diploma in Hotel & Resort Administration from Georgian College and she has studied Modern Languages at Laurentian University and Indigenous Environmental Studies at Trent University. She is also trained in Rediscovery and Outdoor Adventure Leadership and a certified Canoe Instructor.  

Lynzii has travelled to Guyana, South America on a Youth Internship and facilitated a Youth Leadership & Empowerment course to Indigenous students in at the Bina Hill Institute. In 2009, Lynzii was selected as a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP-15, the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. And in 2010 she was invited to be a member of the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council and traveled to many Chiefs of Ontario leadership gatherings to share young people’s perspectives on the environment and language. She assisted with the development of a Life Promotion Strategy, Tobacco Protocol, and Youth Engagement Bundle while serving on council. Lynzii has been an inspiring FUN (Friends Uniting for Nature) Camps Coordinator in Vancouver, BC and was among the first staff of the TRACKS (Trent Aboriginal Culture Knowledge & Science) Camps initiative at Trent University in Peterborough, ON.

Among all of her adventures, Lynzii’s heart remains at home on Mnidoo Mnising – Manitoulin Island where she is the founder of LOVE Shkakmi-kwe Project, a community based environmental awareness initiative. She is currently working with M’Chigeeng Health Services by co-facilitating an all girls empowerment project called, the M’Chigeeng Lil’Sisters and works with Canadian Roots Exchanges, which provides Indigenous based leadership, learning and reconciliation experiences to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. And she is a facilitator with Three Things Consulting from Kingston, ON.

Bernard Ominayak
Bernard Ominayak was born on Lubicon lands in the bush trap line in 1950, where his people hunted for centuries leading a hunting way of. He learned English when he attended residential school in northern Alberta in 1960’s. First English speaking Chief in office, 1978 by the Elders, who had been fighting for the land rights since 1899 Treaty 8. Elders chose him to lead their efforts to secure their reserve he has remained at the forefront, fighting for human rights over 40 years. He continues to secure Lubicon rights and lands in the face of government funded multi-national resource extraction industries exploiting the rich resources within the infamous ‘Alberta tar sands’. He has led his people survival of ecological destruction due to mass scale exploitation of their lands and resources leading the World Council of Churches to declare, Canada’s ongoing development could have genocidal consequences.’
The Lubicon were pressing the UN to hear their case and won. May 1, 1990, the Human Rights Interna¬tional Committee on Civil and Political Rights found Canada in violation of article 27.The first and only Indigenous UN decision found Canada in violation of their rights by ‘continued development that threatens their culture and way of life’. They acknowledged development was associated disease and poor health conditions (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights”. It was a victory but rendered little changed for the Lubicon.
Amnesty International they reported:
The Alberta government has acknowledging that it has brought in vast wealth from development of Lubicon land. In the midst of this wealth, the Lubicon live without running water. Today, more than 70% percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for future resource development, including oil sands extraction. United Nations human rights bodies have repeatedly condemned the failure to protect Lubicon rights from the impact of large-scale oil and gas development. The treatment of the Lubicon Cree stands as a powerful, emblematic example of the failure of governments in Canada to respect and uphold the legal rights of Indigenous peoples in the face of resource development (Amnesty International 2011).  

The most recent action by the Lubicon is a post of their continued efforts to raise awareness about the development in their territories January 17th, 2012 in response to Bill-45, which undermines land rights and protection:
“In solidarity with actions across the country today, the Government of the Lubicon Lake Nation will set up multiple checkpoints throughout the oil and gas fields which are contained within their Traditional Lands…. However, this morning, the Government of the Lubicon Lake Nation provided notice to Oil and Gas exploration companies operating within their Traditional Lands known as “the Teardrop” that the Nation would be delaying traffic throughout the oil field to get their message out and a warning to oil companies that it could get worse…The Lubicon Lake Nation remains without a Treaty or Land Rights Settlement with the Canadian Crown. According to the Canadian Constitution, the Government of Canada is required to enter into Treaty with any First Nation in order to extinguish the Aboriginal Title to the First Nations’ land. If the Crown has not done so, clear title cannot be transferred to Canada or the provinces.
This has not stopped the Government of Alberta from issuing thousands of oil and gas leases and licenses for resource extraction within Lubicon borders. This extraction continues largely without the consent and involvement of the Lubicon and the community remains one of the poorest in the province, with inadequate infrastructure despite the 14 billion dollars of oil and gas that has been removed from Lubicon lands. Chief of the Lubicon Lake Nation, Bernard Ominayak gained international notoriety throughout the last 30 years for his strong stance to protect their traditional territories and not ‘selling out’ to government fast cash land settlements that did not protect the human and environmental rights his ancestors fought so long to o protect.
The government has waged a smear campaign for the duration of his leadership to undermine his campaign to secure rights for the Lubicon that include protections of lands and resources.

Dawn Martin Hill
Dawn Martin Hill (Mohawk, Wolf Clan) holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and is one of the original founders of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. She recently accepted a position as the Paul R. McPherson Indigenous Studies Chair. Her research includes: community health research, Indigenous women and spiritual traditions, traditional medicine and well-being, Indigenous Knowledge, methodologies and pedagogy. She continues over two decades of research documenting and publishing the impact of oil development on the Lubicon Cree culture and health in northern Alberta . She is a PI of CIHR catalyst grant titled, Tehtsitehwa: kenrotka: we (together we pull it from the earth again) – The Ohero:kon youth Health Intervention”, a female Haudenosaunne research team from Akwasasne and Six Nations focused on rites of passage for youth as a prevention strategy drawn from IK holders. And is just finishing as PI of SSHRC grant for the Digitization of Ceremonies in the Hewitt collection in partnership with Six Nations Polytechnic. Most recently the PI of a CIHR-IAPH funded NEAHR grant (Network Environments in Aboriginal Health Research), the Indigenous Health Research Development Program. Most recently, the Co-PI for the Aboriginal Health Research Network for Aboriginal Knowledge and Ways of Knowing (AHRN-AKWK) which is a national network of regional hubs/teams. The goal of the three year network catalyst project (2014-2017) is to meaningfully engage Indigenous knowledge holders, practitioners, researchers, trainees and knowledge brokers to collaborate and advance health research that foregrounds Aboriginal knowledge and ways of knowing in all aspects of the research process. This network builds on the strength and capacity of the CIHR-funded Aboriginal Capacity and Development Environments (ACADRE) and Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research (NEAHR) program (2001-2013).
She is the Indigenous Elders and Youth Council that promotes the protection and preservation of Indigenous Knowledge systems and is in partnership with the Amazon Conservation Team. The first film is ‘Jidwá: doh - Let’s Become Again’ 2005, a documentary cultural understandings of historical trauma and using Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices to heal communities. The second is ‘Onkwànistenhsera - Mothers of our Nations’ 2006, which examines the need for Indigenous women to reclaim, restore and revitalize their traditional knowledge and the most recent “Sewatokwa’tshera’t – The Dish with One Spoon” 2008, a film about the Haudenosaunee reclaiming of traditional lands.