Sea, Land and Sky Indigenization Initiative

Our vision

Through a focused effort on learning and teaching with an emphasis on land-based, Indigenous-informed pedagogy, the Faculty of Environment aims to engage with tomorrow’s environmental leaders and impart an appreciation and deep understanding of the complexity and significance of land — and so too the environment — as a source of knowledge. When we refer to land-based learning, we refer to the whole of the environment — water, land and air from sea to sky — as a source of learning.

In the context of reconciliation, we are expanding learning experiences to include Indigenous and diverse place-based knowledges of land and water. We also seek to increase the representation of Indigenous students, faculty and staff.

A holistic approach

To realize this vision, integrated actions, resources and systems are required in stages, beginning with building and fostering more Indigenous content in our current array of undergraduate courses.

This plan takes a holistic approach to having all students and faculty engaged in active learning about and with Indigenous knowledge keepers on issues and concerns related to environmental stewardship, resource management, decolonization, Aboriginal rights, title and the duty to consult, language and culture, economy, geography, history, archaeology, UNDRIP, the TRC, residential schools and more. To bring this vision into being, the following elements of an integrated, staged plan for Indigenizing FENV’s teaching, research and community engagement include:

1. Enhance Curriculum

Support faculty innovation in curriculum development of current courses.

2. Support the formation of an SFU-wide Indigenous Advisory Committee

An Indigenous advisory group at the SFU level would ensure that all university initiatives involving contact with First Nations be coordinated and of a standard that is acceptable to Indigenous communities, Indigenous academic advisors and non-Indigenous academic advisors.

3. Hire an Indigenous Cultural Liaison in the Faculty of Environment

To coordinate and initiate Indigenous-focused curricula, we will hire an Indigenous liaison who is knowledgeable about First Nations protocol and knowledges from diverse nations in our region, and who will be able to connect and coordinate reciprocally with First Nations willing to collaborate with FENV. The person in this role will have experience in an academic setting as well as First Nations organizations.

4. Host Faculty and Staff Learning Circles

Reconciliation implies that faculty and staff take part in learning about the history and impact of settler colonialism and the impact of dislocation from land and the beliefs and knowledge systems of Indigenous Peoples, and seek ways to weave this understanding into their course curricula. Through facilitated dialogue, faculty and staff will be invited to explore the legacy of colonization, implications of the TRC recommendations, UNDRIP, the lasting impact of residential schools, child welfare, and the rich, traditional knowledge systems and cultural practices that connect Indigenous people to land, nature, worldview and spiritual practices.

5. Develop a core course for all Faculty of Environment students and an Indigenous-Led Land-Based Field School for Undergraduates


A core course offered to all undergraduates is being developed. This course will focus on Indigenous knowledge traditions and would invite Elders, speakers, and resources that explore and unpack Indigenous realities. Students will explore Indigenous worldviews — traditional forms of governance, land management, cultural practices and language in relationship to land and waters — in rural and urban contexts. Through interactions with Indigenous knowledge keepers, Elders and other specialists, students will have opportunities to discuss the history and legacy of colonization, the diverse political, spiritual and cultural norms of the Coast Salish People, and the ceremonies, philosophies, and values they hold. Students will come to recognize the impact settlers have had on Indigenous lives and what is required to reconcile and reconnect Indigenous people with the source of their knowledge: Indigenous land.


Field courses offer students the opportunity to experience interaction with the land and waters through the lens of a specific watershed or geography that creates place and culture-specific nuances to address environmental stewardship, archaeological sites and heritage materials, food systems, environmental science and meaningful connections to land and ecology. The aim of the field school experience is to offer what education theorists term a “deep” learning experience, where students are encouraged to critique and reflect on the subject matter and their experience in a specific context.

6. Create a Land-based learning space on Burnaby Mountain/SFU Campus

We are exploring options for the use of university land for land-pedagogies to complement the core course and other FENV offerings. This space could include the following elements:

  • Fire pit and round seating with rain cover. This would be a space where students can learn from Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
  • Indigenous garden (dedicated land space to grow Indigenous-focused plants).
  • Food forest space (maybe a small pilot space in collaboration with SFU Indigenous Studies or ethnobotany to plant or grow local Indigenous food plants and medicine).
  • Access to kitchen space or find ways to share existing space on campus.

Having an outdoor meeting space — access to land adjacent to the university campus dedicated to land-based learning — would provide a means for faculty to offer land pedagogies to a greater number of students, in a place where Elders and knowledge keepers can be hosted to engage with students on a range of relevant topics from traditional medicines, food systems, harvesting and gathering practices, ceremony, cultural activities, language and land stewardship.

7. Foster an Indigenous Student Circle

In the spirit of reciprocity, the Faculty will commit to paying particular attention to engaging with currently enrolled Indigenous students — undergraduates and graduates — and to provide a circle of learning, interaction and support for these students.

8. Review Recruitment Strategy for Indigenous Students

This work is in progress with community partners.

9. Explore ways to hire more Indigenous faculty

Increasing the presence of Indigenous academics in the university will contribute to Indigenizing the Faculty and move in the direction of greater representation. The Faculty is committed to seeking ways to make this happen.