Preserving Indigenous Culture – On The Minds Of Environmental Educators And Practitioners Worldwide


What better way to kickoff September and the start of a new school year, than to attend the 9th annual World Environmental Education Congress in Vancouver. Last week ECO Canada made our first stop on the cross-Canada tour talking to delegates from around the world about environmental culture, education and sustainable development. The energy at this event was one of eager excitement and reflection – many of the delegates eager to collaborate and learn from peers around the world.

The congress kicked off with opening ceremonies led by a traditional welcome from Elder Shane Pointe along with special appearances by the Princess of Morocco, Lalla Hasnaa, and Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC. Each presenter focused on relaying their connection to the interplay between cultural and environmental factors as the main theme of this year’s congress.

Though there were numerous break-out sessions and lectures covering various subject matter, two key themes were prevalent:

  1. Integration of sustainable practice into education at a very young level: how educators are amplifying outdoor learning and awareness of environmental issues right from a primary learning level.
  2. The cultural impact of Indigenous peoples and how to build stronger visibility and connections with these influential communities.

The popularity of the latter subject was certainly no surprise to us at ECO – this year we have received an enormous amount of inquiries about working with Indigenous communities and integrating their unique knowledge into relevant environmental programs that impact the land. The subject of Indigenous Relations is something that we are intently familiarity with in Canada, but it was very interesting to see and hear from so many international attendees that could validate that this is an area that demands attention.

One particularly powerful session was presented by Wade Davis, Professor of Anthropology and former Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society. Davis spoke about the many experiences that he’s had all over the world in studying Indigenous cultures.

What does it mean to human and alive? Davis stated, that when people can answer that question in 7,000 different languages, each of these languages indicates a unique culture and unique answer to this question. Davis goes on to tell stories of how he was able to tackle the monumental task of changing how the world viewed and valued culture while at National Geographic Society.

The former explorer highlights remarkable experiences with Indigenous communities from around the world and the impact of those experiences. From Polynesia to the mountains of Tibet, Davis describes the rare and compelling interactions that define cultural practice in every corner of the world. Throughout each of Davis’ stories, it was clear just how significant and vast the knowledge Indigenous cultures have in terms of use of land and the plants that hold information. Wade Davis was able to articulate the importance of honoring Indigenous culture in a way that resonated with every person in the room. His key point being that every culture has a voice – and telling stories that resonate at a human level can change how this notion is viewed.

Sharing stories, knowledge, experiences, and challenges will have a big influence on the growth of the environmental industry as a whole. Stories can shape a passion for the next generation of environmental scientists, advocates and other practitioners to apply new learnings for a highly intelligent and skilled group of professionals.

Have a story you want to share? Let us know what it is by emailing training@eco.ca and it could be featured on the Environmental Insider Webinar Series.

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