Dis-placing Myself: Decolonizing a Settler Outdoor Environmental Educator
Doctor of Philosopy in Educational Studies
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Indigenous communities across Canada are courageously fighting to protect their Lands for future generations. Many settler Canadians are trying to work in solidarity with Indigenous communities to disrupt socio-ecological injustice. Efforts are being made in the fields of outdoor and environmental education to integrate social and ecological perspectives to challenge the dominant and inequitable power structures impacting people and the more-than-human world to improve the health and sustainability of communities. Despite these efforts, settler colonialism remains entrenched throughout Canadian institutions. Schools are still largely failing to meet the needs of Indigenous students (Dion, 2010; Haldane, Lafond, & Krause, 2012; Little Bear, 2009). Furthermore, schools are also failing non-Indigenous students by continuing to teach Eurocentric myths and perspectives. One reason for this is that settler Canadian educators have not been taught about resilient Indigenous cultures, shared colonial histories, or their own complicity in contemporary socio-ecological colonialism. I argue that settler environmental educators need to decolonize ourselves and our teaching praxes in order to shift towards ethical relationality (Donald, 2012) or respectful relationality (Korteweg, personal communication) with Indigenous peoples and Lands. To date, however, little research exists that conceptualizes decolonizing for settler Canadians or that seeks to understand how to facilitate these complex and lifelong processes. Working from an Indigenist–decolonizing theoretical framework (Smith, 1999; 2010; Wilson, 2001; 2007) and guided by auto-ethnographic methodology (Denzin, 2014; 2006; Ellingson & Ellis, 2008; Anderson, 2006), I employ reflexive narrative vignettes and constructivist grounded theory analysis (Charmaz, 2003; 2006; Kovach, 2010) to examine the factors and experiences that facilitate and/or prevent settler Canadians’ capacity to shift towards respectful relationality with Aboriginal peoples. I aim to provide an in-depth model of “unsettling the settler” (Reagan, 2010) through my own self-study in order to expand the literature on settler decolonizing and to theorize fundamental moves that educators in general and environmental educations in particular need to experience in order to deepen our decolonizing understandings. Through my own critical self-study, I offer 10 “settler moves to respectful relationality,” based on experiences that support decolonizing. They include: Land-based experiences and acknowledgement of Indigenous Land; engagement with resilient Indigeneity and relationships with Indigenous peoples; critically reflexive autobiographical work; and connections to one’s own cultural heritage and community.