Promoting Well-Being through Land-Based Pedagogy

By Thea Luig, Erin Freeland Ballantyne and Kyla Kakfwi Scott.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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In June 2010 “Dechinta” - Bush University Centre for Research and Learning ran their first semester of land-based and university-accredited courses. During a three-week pilot session at a remote location in the Canadian Northwest Territories, students from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal background learned about health promotion, the history of their people, governance, creative writing, and sustainable technologies. Resident Elders, cultural experts, university professors, and artists taught in collaboration through fireside lecturing, writing, and speaking assignments, travelling out on the land, gathering wood, harvesting, moose hide tanning, making dry fish, and more. Experiential learning that engaged students on intellectual, emotional, and physical levels created awareness of various emotional difficulties, their causes, and their effects on health among participants. The experience of interrelatedness with the land and the group, sharing these experiences in storytelling and writing, working and being on the land proved effective in addressing and emotionally integrating these issues. The Elders present contributed to this process by modeling appropriate behaviour in the face of difficulties and conflict. This paper intends to show the varied relationships between the pedagogy of northern Aboriginal people and the promotion of lifelong well-being. It will relate the experience of Dechinta with a theoretical discussion drawing on critical pedagogy, cultural anthropology, and psychology.

Keywords: Health Promotion, Experiential Education, Land-based Education, Aboriginal Students, Canadian Northwest Territories, well-being

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.13-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 760.138KB).

Thea Luig

PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Edmonton, Canada

Thea is a PhD candidate interested in how people are able to transform adversity and disenfranchisement into positive lives. She holds a MA in Cultural Anthropology, Psychology, and East European Studies from the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Currently she is conducting collaborative qualitative research on community well-being in the Canadian Northwest Territories. The project upon which this paper is based was made possible through the support of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research, Yellowknife, NT and the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research, Montreal.

Erin Freeland Ballantyne

Director Dechinta Bush University, Oxford University Centre for the Environment

Erin Freeland Ballantyne was born and raised in Sombak´e/ Yellowknife on Akaitcho territory and was the first Rhodes Scholar from the Canadian North. Erin holds a BA Honors in International Development Studies at McGill University and Msc in Environmental Policy from Oxford University. Currently working on a PhD at Oxford, looking at the disjuncture between climate change and its effect on human security and health amidst a regional focus on oil and gas extraction and the challenge this presents for sustainable community development. Erin uses participatory video research to involve youth in research to create education tools to support community health.

Kyla Kakfwi Scott

Program Manager, Dechinta Bush University, Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning

Kyla Kakfwi Scott was born and raised in Denendeh and has traveled extensively throughout the North. Kyla attended the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership at Lester B. Pearson College and studied Media, Information and Technoculture at the University of Western Ontario. She is one of the inaugural Jane Glassco Arctic Fellows, looking at evaluation and transferability issues related to the integration of academic and indigenous approaches to education. Kyla has served as Program Manager for Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning since 2009.