Friday, June 21, 2013

Indigenous Ecology in Environmental Education

Aboriginal environmental philosophies recognize the complex and interdependent relationships between human beings and nature. While differences exist across Aboriginal communities, there are commonalities in their environmental philosophies. Generally speaking, Aboriginal philosophies offer an ecological ethos focused on spirituality, stewardship and sustainability. Indigenous philosophies can teach people how to reconnect with nature and show them how to establish mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationships.

According to Native American educator Gregory Cajete, “The accumulated knowledge of the remaining indigenous groups around the world represents a body of ancient thoughts, experiences and actions that must be honoured and preserved as a vital storehouse of environmental wisdom. ... Modern societies must recapture the ecologically sustainable orientation that has long been absent from its psychological, social and spiritual consciousness”

For thousands of years before Europeans arrived in North America, indigenous people lived in harmony with the land. The environmental failings of European way of life should be obvious. A couple of hundred years after the white man arrivedin North America, the continent is suffering from widespread pollution and pervasive environmental degradation. Species have been decimated, the land is being plundered for oil and other resources and the waters are being polluted by industrial and agricultural effluents.

Indigenous ecology provides intercultural knowledge for the non-native community but they also offer benefits which extend to Aboriginal students. The inclusion of indigenous perspectives can help to foster engagement that values Aboriginal experiences and culture and promotes self-esteem and better learning outcomes.

Indigenous philosophies show us the way forward by offering a deeply spiritual ecological world view.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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