“They Had a Deep Respect for the Earth:” Teaching Ethnoecology in the Settler-Canadian Classroom

  • Dorothee Schreiber


In courses on indigenous peoples and the environment, the classroom becomes a potent site of Native-settler encounter, where the settler-Canadian student deploys and reinterprets existing narratives about indigenous peoples and the land. A central character in these stories is a phantom-like Indian figure who is just on the brink of disappearing, and who has “deep understandings” ready to be transferred to the morally-prepared student. In this view, being indigenous is simply one of many mental alternatives in which the indigenous “feeling for nature” promises to restore sustainability and simplicity to once-indigenous westerners. These narratives silence ongoing disputes over indigenous lands and resources and constrain teaching about the history and politics of Native-settler relations.
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