top of page

Research to Support Program

Background Research Component:

The research behind this project explores the importance of a land-based educational programming for youth. Land or place-based experiences have the potential to foster respectful relationships and cultural understanding between the people and the lands of Canada through the mindful processes of decolonization, reinhabitation, and ultimately reconciliation (Scully, 2012). The findings from Lowan’s (2009) extensive research pertaining to outdoor environmental education suggest that there is a need to design and create contemporary programming that is based on the recognition of Indigenous cultures and languages in close relationship or connection with the land and physical space.


Including community members and youth into these land-based projects helps to ensure the methods and results align with and properly reflect cultural values as well as providing a space for meaningful intergenerational connections to be cultivated (Toombs, Kowatch, & Mushquash, 2016). Toombs, Kowatch, & Mushquash (2016) point out “most studies suggest the use of a collaborative approach that engages community-based perspectives of culture to create a holistic model of resilience and wellness”(p.21). The process of placing Indigenous ways of knowing at the heart or core of the land-based program design, recognizes and reinforces the wisdom and significance of these knowledges (Ritchie & Wairaka, 2012). Ritchie and Wairaka’s (2012) research pertaining to the integration of Maori perspectives in youth environmental education programming in New Zealand provides a positive example of a holistic, respectful, and community based approach that has proven to be beneficial for all participants. Moreover, the research of Sutherland and Swayze (2012) points out that an environmental education program can play a vital role in decolonizing Eurocentric programming by “including Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies that will help all broaden all peoples’ understanding of interconnected relationships with the earth, human and non-human animals, and living and non-living entities in the environment and beyond” (p.81).

The design of this land-based program is also in line with the findings of Tang and Jardine (2016) who state: “physical activity is cultural activity, and cultural promotion is health promotion…not only through sports and exercise, but also through community involvement and a deeper connection with the land” (p.224). This interconnection and holistic foundation is a powerful component to fostering youth health and wellness. Participants of land-based programming build a variety of skills by being immersed in the natural environment. Redvers (2016) found that providing opportunities for youth to access and be part of the land in an engaging and meaningful way, helped to support both Indigenous and western education, mental and physical health and wellbeing, and environmental outcomes in shared communities.


Benefits of land-based activities:

Land-based activities have a variety of benefits. They have been shown to increase cultural identity and language, as well as cultivate positive social relationships and interactions, develop physical health (active living and physical fitness), create feelings of being healthy and well, and increase self-confidence (Redvers, 2016). Redvers’ (2016) findings reveal how important land-based programs have been for encompassing a holistic approach to health and wellness.

Land continues to provide traditional foods essential to good health, a space for self-reflection and renewal, intense physical activity required in everyday life, joy and love in the interactions with family and friends, and experiential learning through interactions with nature and topography. (Radu, House, & Pashagumskum, 2014, p.92)

Importance of Elders and language:

Although this program is designed as a partnership, it is integral for it to be directed by an Elder, as explained by Korteweg and Russell (2012), “It is a double move of colonialism for non-Indigenous program facilitators to think they should pass on Indigenous knowledge and traditions without knowing the language or without taking direction and guidance from Elders.”(p.8). Redvers’ (2016) research also points out that in order for program success, it is essential to effectively work with and support knowledgeable Elders, Knowledge Keepers and other role models who have unique skill sets. In addition, the work of Simpson (2002) highlights the value of including an Elder in all aspects of Indigenous programming (as keepers of traditional knowledge and culture) (as cited in Lowan, 2009). Having an Elder as a central and consistent part of the program helps to teach in a traditional way and also helps to develop and nurture deep connections to the wisdom of the people and the space (Lowan, 2009).


This land-based program has a key focus on the importance of the Blackfoot language. Each visit to the land (provincial park space) will allow the students to acquire key vocabulary and phrases in Blackfoot. Language acquisition and the land are closely connected and the process of “decolonization must involve reconnecting Indigenous peoples to the languages that arise from the land” (Wildcat et al., 2014, as cited in Redvers, 2016). Redvers (2016) notes that the very important spiritual, ancestral, and collective identity is present in the natural environments and land-based activities provide a space for this intergenerational language transfer to take place in a meaningful manner (in context).

Creating connections and stewardship skills:

Another goal of this program is for the students to create a deep connection and relationship with the land through weekly visits to this same space or area. This connection will help the students become the stewards of this space or landscape. Upholding responsibilities and relationships is a skill set and perspective that the program would like to nurture when addressing the concept of stewardship. Redvers (2016) mentions, “land-based programming helps to connect people on a deeper level and this connection assists with developing caring and empathetic future land-stewards” (p.116). To further support this idea, the work of Orr (2004) suggests that spending substantial amounts of time in a natural space or environment is a prerequisite skill for fostering and nurturing empathy and environmental stewardship skills (as cited in Lowan, 2009).


An inclusive space:

Moreover, it is important not to portray a romanticized notion of a provincial park recreation/education program that has the intention of returning Indigenous students back to the land (Sutherland & Swayze, 2012). Applying place-based learning to programs for Indigenous learners has been critiqued for encouraging learners to acquire Western colonial concepts of “getting back to nature” and ignoring foundational social and cultural dimensions (Sutherland & Swayze, 2012, p. 83). Foundational cultural dimensions will be forefront in directing this program. This project uses the wisdom of Mosom Muskwa and “take[s] the best of both cultures and use[s] these two roads to the best of their abilities” (Recreation Director’s Handbook, 2008, p.7). These pathways in the park will help to lead the youth to reconciliation because “A two-worlds approach has the capacity to enlighten both educators and students and promote relationship-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and their respective cultural understandings” (Kapyrka & Dockstator, 2012, p.97). In this project, these distinct ways of knowing should be viewed as complementary and separate sources of knowledge and wisdom (Kapyrka & Dockstator, 2012). There is no need to blend these distinct roads or pathways into only one final path; rather, bridges of understanding will be nurtured so that students are able to travel respectfully within each of these perspectives or worldviews.

Scholar and researcher, Marie Battiste points out that relation to space is an important site for cross-cultural understanding to take place and it is the most effective way to learn about and from Indigenous peoples and places (as cited in Scully, 2012). It is this type of powerful place based programming that can foster “an inclusive space that welcomes Indigenous knowledge and provides students with opportunities to acknowledge and respect the foundational and important Indigenous knowledge of the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples on whose land they live “(Korteweg & Russell, 2012, p.7).



Hatala, A., et al. (2017). The interpersonal skills of community-engaged scholarship: Insights from collaborators writing at the University of Saskatchewan's community engagement office. Journal of Community Engagement, 10(1), 44-58. Access online:

Kapyrka, J. & Dockstator, M. (2012). Indigenous knowledges and western knowledges in environmental education: acknowledging the tensions for the benefits of a two worlds approach. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 97-112. Retrieved from

Korteweg, L. & Russell, C. (2012). Decolonizing + indigenizing= moving environmental education towards reconciliation. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 5-14. Retrieved from

Lowan, G. (2009). Exploring place from an Aboriginal perspective: considerations for outdoor environmental education. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 14, 42-58. Retrieved from

McDonald, J. (n.d.). The Tsimshian protocols: Locating empowering community-based research. Canadian Journal of Native Education 28(1), 80-91.

McGuire-Adams, T. (2017). Anishinaabeg women's stories of wellbeing: Physical activity, restoring wellbeing, and confronting the settler colonial deficit analysis. Journal of Indigenous Wellbeing: Te Mauri – Pimatisiwin, 2(3), 1-17. Retrieved from:

Radu, I., House, L., Pashagumskum, E. (2014). Land, life and knowledge in Chisasibi: intergenerational healing in the bush. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 86-105. Retrieved from file:///Users/valueduser/Downloads/21219-53750-1-PB%20(1).pdf

Recreation Director's Handbook. (2008). Published by Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. Retrieved from

Redvers, J. (2016). Land-based practice for Indigenous health and wellness in Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories (Thesis). Calgary: University of Calgary, Graduate Program in Environmental Design. Retrieved from:

Ritche, J. &Wairaka, T. (2012). Titiro whakamuri, hoki whakamua: Respectful integration of Maori perspectives within early childhood environmental education. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 62-79. Retrieved from

Scully, A. (2012). Decolonization, reinhabitation and reconciliation: Aboriginal and place-based education. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 148-158. Retrieved from

Simpson, L. (2014). Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 1-25. Retrieved from

Sutherland, D. & Swayze, N. (2012). Including Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies in science-based environmental educational programs. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 80-96. Retrieved from

Swayze, N. (2009). Engaging Indigenous urban youth in environmental learning: the importance of place revisited. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 14, 59-73. Retrieved from

Tang, K. & Jardine, C. (2016). Our way of life: importance of Indigenous culture and tradition to physical activity practices. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 11(1), 211-227. Retrieved from: file:///Users/valueduser/Downloads/Tang%20%20Jar


Toombs, E., Kowatch, K., Mushquash, C. (2016). Resilience in Canadian Indigenous youth: a scoping review. International Journal of Child and Adolescent Resilience, 4(1), 4-32. Retrieved from,%20et%20al,%204-32.pdf

From Marie Battiste’s article: Nourishing the Learning Spirit, Education Canada Volume 50 (1)

“The recognition and intellectual activation of Indigenous knowledge today is an act of remediation, recognition of rights of Indigenous peoples, and a renaissance among Indigenous scholars, social activists, and allies. Their struggles represent a regeneration of the dignity and cultural integrity of Indigenous peoples, where success has been found in affirming and activating the holistic systems of Indigenous knowledge, engaging Elders, communities, and committed individuals. These practices reveal the utility, wealth, and richness of Indigenous languages, worldviews, teachings, and experiences to animate educational achievement. Once again in the struggle, Aboriginal languages are the most significant factor in the restoration, regeneration, and survival of Indigenous knowledge, and yet they are the most endangered.

Two eyed seeing is to normalize Indigenous knowledge in the curriculum so that both Indigenous and conventional perspectives and knowledges will be available – not just for Aboriginal peoples, who would be enriched by that effort, but for all peoples.

Aboriginal knowledge serves to ground our interrelationships with each other – all things, animate and inanimate; to honour the land, the animals, the ecology that gives all of us sustenance; to honour our relationships with one another and respect our diversities, recognizing that we are all one, coming from one Creation, learning to learn, to fulfill our Two eyed seeing is to normalize Indigenous knowledge in the curriculum so that both Indigenous and conventional perspectives and knowledges will be available – not just for Aboriginal peoples, who would be enriched by that effort, but for all peoples.

It is about balancing our brains and our selves and our societies in a world that could benefit greatly from the teachings of Elders, whose wealth of wisdom is abundant to those who listen and act.


Finally, it is about every educator making a commitment to both unlearn and learn – to unlearn the racism and superiority so evident in our society and to learn new ways of knowing, valuing others, accepting diversity, and making equity and inclusion foundations for all learners.”


bottom of page