Cliff Atleo joins SFU's School of Resource and Environmental Management as an assistant professor of Indigenous Environment Management and Governance.

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First Nations scholar to focus on resource, governance issues

September 19, 2016
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Cliff Atleo, former treaty process manager of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, has joined SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM) as an assistant professor of Indigenous Environmental Management and Governance.

Through the new position, Atleo brings a fresh perspective on First Nations resource and governance issues and will help to better prepare students who plan on working with First Nations communities.

“It’s interesting to bring into the discussions and the learning process, more traditional ways of looking at the environment, and in terms of policy, more specifics related to indigenous culture,” says Atleo. “I’m encouraged to see that need recognized, and I’m honoured to bring that voice as someone from the West Coast.”

SFU professor Ken Lertzman says the position is an important one for the School of Resource and Environmental Management and has been in the works for several years.

“An increasing number of REM graduates are being hired by First Nations and it’s critical that we do a good job of preparing our students for the kinds of management issues they will be addressing,” says Lertzman. “Indigenous governance has been a gap in our programming in this regard and we are enthusiastic about strengthening this area.”

Lertzman says indigenous scholars are playing a significant role in shaping views on these issues as well as developing potential solutions.

“We are excited to hire Cliff in this position as an emerging indigenous scholar,” he says. “We expect he will make a huge contribution to the SFU community, both through his research and teaching.”

Atleo, a Tsimshian and Nuu-chah-nulth scholar who grew up in Vancouver, completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Victoria, focusing on political science and indigenous governance. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of Alberta and hopes to defend his dissertation before the year’s end.

His research on change and continuity in the political economy of the Nuu-chah-nulth-aht critiques “aboriginalized” capitalism, explores the revival of traditional governance, and draws on his experience as treaty manager from 2001-2005.

In 2014 he won a prestigious fellowship from Yale University. The Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Writing Fellowship in American Indian and Indigenous Studies supports the completion of doctorates by scholars working on pressing issues related to the American indigenous experience.

Atleo recently contributed a chapter on economic development in Nuu-chah-hulth-aht to a book, More Will Sing Their Way to Freedom: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence (Fernwood Publishing, 2015).

He also has a book proposal underway and hopes to pursue more scholarly activities while adapting to his teaching load, which may also include new courses focusing on indigenous perspectives.

“My goal is to see our approaches to big resource issues like climate change, which is about more than rising ocean temperatures or the impact of toxins, take further account of the indigenous community perspective,” he says.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission talked of growing the indigenous perspective in post-secondary education, and it is interesting to see that universities are responding,” he says.

“I’m excited to be a part of this growth.”