TRent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science Initiative

TRACKS (TRent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science) is a youth (grades 9 and 10) outreach program that is currently being developed at Trent University in association with the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program (IES). TRACKS is developing and planning to offer summer camp experiences either at Trent University or in First Nations communities during the summer months, as well as Community outreach / school outreach activities during the school year.

Indigenous youth are the fastest growing demographic in Canadian society. These youth, who possess a unique set of skills, values, and a worldview rooted in respect for all of creation, have great potential to have a positive impact in today’s world. This generation of youth has the potential to understand and contribute to a collective understanding of environmental issues from a different perspective, and to problem solve and discover innovative solutions to many of the problems faced by today’s society. However, the under-representation of Indigenous peoples in the fields of mathematics, health sciences and physical and environmental sciences is a challenge to this potential and has been well documented. More specifically, it has been noted that youth in general are losing interest in the natural and physical sciences at the middle school level, which negatively impacts their ability to select options and engage in programs in these areas at a post-secondary education level.

TRACKS is unique in that its curriculum evolved from Indigenous ways of knowing, and yet still incorporates fundamental concepts that are linked to scientific inquiry and technological approaches to problem solving. Ideally, the program will enable students to make inferences and draw links between various scientific concepts and the cultural knowledge from their lived experiences and to apply this knowledge in a connected manner towards understanding the world around them and in turn encourage thinking to create innovative solutions to help solve complex issues. Such an approach will reaffirm the belief that Indigenous Knowledge and Science can work hand-in-hand to explore, describe and explain the natural and physical world.

The idea for TRACKS was born out of the Indigenous Environmental Studies/Sciences program at Trent, and the recognition that a greater impact could be achieved if programming was available to Indigenous youth at a younger age. With this idea, staff and students from the IES program were brought on board to begin development. The current TRACKS Advisors who provide direction and experience for the organization of the TRACKS concept and its curriculum and program development, include Professor Dan Longboat - Indigenous Stds Dept. and Professor Chris Furgal - Environmental Science/Stds Dept. and Indigenous Studies Dept., and Brigitte Evering – PhD Candidate Indigenous Studies Program.

We are now confident that the University and the community support the creation of the TRACKS program. The next step is to create an Advisory Committee to provide further direction to the development and implementation of the initiative. This is where we see community partnerships and representation on the Committee. Other members of the committee will include representatives from each of our targeted partner First Nations (education directors, recreation directors or others working in this area in Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Alderville and Tyendinaga), Elders and knowledge holders, Trent University IES students, and representatives from other community organizations.

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