Spencer Greening


SFU 2018 Trudeau scholarship winner links heritage, traditional knowledge to environmental stewardship

May 13, 2019

By Stacey Makortoff

Spencer Greening, of the Gitga’at First Nation, has a gift for balancing traditional Indigenous knowledge, research, language and culture with western scholarship, politics and activism.

This remarkable ability has earned the SFU archaeology PhD candidate a 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship. These three-year scholarships, worth$180,000 over three years, are offered to “exceptional students who have distinguished themselves through academic excellence and civic engagement” from selected universities around the world.

Greening’s research project, “Al’algyax Laxyuubs Gitk’a’ata (The Territory of the Gitga’at Speaks): Language, Place-based Knowledge, and Environmental Stewardship in the Heart of Gitga’at Territory,” uses both ethnography and Indigenous methodology to assist with knowledge transfer and language revitalization in the Tsimshian tribe of the Gitga’at First Nation, located on B.C.'s Northwest coast.  

“This methodology is based on the ancestral teachings, laws, protocols and pedagogical process that come from the territory of the Gitga’at,” says Greening. “This research adds to a global discussion on the protection of bio-cultural diversity, the revitalization of language and cultural connections, and Indigenous rights and title.

“Indigenous environmental knowledge, Indigenous language, and the sharing of place-based knowledge are linked to heritage preservation, identity and sustainable resource and environmental management. This environmental knowledge, should be at the forefront of law, policy and environmental awareness.”

Greening’s supervisor, professor Dana Lepofsky, is excited for him to work with the Trudeau Foundation.

“Through the Trudeau network, Spencer will be part of a supportive, intelligent community of researchers who are thinking outside of the box. This is exactly where Spencer should be situated.

Because of his unique perspective as an Indigenous scholar, activist and learner, Spencer will have much to contribute to these conversations and will take much away from them.”

Awarded SFU’s 2017 Aboriginal Graduate Entrance Scholarship, Greening joined SFU from the University of Northern British Columbia.