OpenEd Launching New Certificate in Indigenous Environmental Governance

Posted on Thursday December 16, 2021

This winter, OpenEd, in partnership with the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS), is pleased to offer the brand-new online Certificate in Indigenous Environmental Governance.

Throughout the five-course certificate, students will gain a mix of theoretical knowledge and applied skills needed to assess environmental stewardship and understand how Indigenous and western scientific knowledges address environmental change.

“The idea behind this certificate is two-fold,” says Byron Sheldrick, acting dean of CSAHS. “First is to provide an accessible opportunity for individuals who might not otherwise be able to access post-secondary education, and second, to provide tools and resources that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities could benefit from and make use of.”

The question of managing resources continues to be a growing issue that Indigenous communities regularly face and has become a source of conflict between western and Indigenous notions of land and land management.

“The certificate is designed to recognize there are different approaches to understanding the world,” says Sheldrick. “The goal is not to bring conflicting knowledge systems together, but rather to create a dialogue between them so that students can understand environmental governance and speak to it in a way that doesn’t lead to Indigenous voices getting lost or drowned out.”

Beginning with Indigenous-Settler Relations, students will be introduced to Indigenous worldviews and concepts of Indigeneity in the Canadian context, and a history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers. From there, subsequent courses allow students to delve into Indigenous knowledge systems and politics in Canada as they relate to environmental governance. All courses lead up to the final capstone course, where students take a hands-on approach to conducting a research project.

“The first part of the capstone course really looks at methodologies of Indigenous research, how to incorporate those knowledge systems, and then mobilize and employ them when conducting research,” says Sheldrick. “The second part is a community-based project where students take what they’ve learned and create something that will benefit the community. Keeping accessibility in mind, we recognize that some students might not have access to a community-based context, so there is flexibility in terms of conducting other research projects without sacrificing the elements of land-based learning.”

Courses in the certificate have been developed by a number of Indigenous faculty and Elders at the University of Guelph with input from external sources, which created a unique opportunity to develop a robust learning experience for students. As well, the certificate has been designed to feed into other programs at the University of Guelph, particularly to the new Bachelors of Indigenous Environmental Science and Practice, with all certificate courses counted towards the degree program.

“Whether students take the certificate as a stand-alone or use it as a pathway into other U of G programs, our ambition is to provide non-Indigenous students who need to learn about these issues the opportunity to do so,” says Sheldrick. “It’s also part of the effort to really decolonize our institution and Indigenize our curriculum.”

The Certificate in Indigenous Environmental Governance begins this January with Indigenous-Settler Relations.