Turtle Island (North America) Indigenous Higher Education Institutions and Environmental Sustainability Education





Indigenous higher education, Indigenous Peoples, environmental education, North America, comparative discourse analysis


This article explores the environmental and sustainability programs of Indigenous Higher Education Institutions (IHEIs) in North America. There are 38 Tribal Colleges and Universities in the United States and 26 Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada. Deploying a critical discourse analysis, the study examines IHEI websites to document Indigenous environmental sustainability education (ESE) program offerings. The comparative analysis of IHEI programming in each national context finds that 41 out of 62 IHEIs in Canada and the United States have Indigenous ESE programs. Findings also indicate that ESE programs are more prevalent among IHEIs in the United States than in Canada. Moreover, IHEIs in the United States also offered greater diversity of program types, from certificates to graduate studies. The findings highlight the importance of IHEI environmental and sustainability education program design for centering Indigenous Knowledge in higher education through Indigenous-controlled institutions.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Kelsey Leonard, University of Waterloo

(Shinnecock Nation)

Assitant Professor, Faculty of Environment


Ahenakew, C. R. (2017). Mapping and complicating conversations about Indigenous education. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 11(2), 80-91. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15595692.2017.1278693.

Assembly of First Nations. (1972). “Indian Control of Indian Education”. https://oneca.com/IndianControlofIndianEducation.pdf

Assembly of First Nations. (2021). Description of the AFN. Assembly of First Nations. https://www.afn.ca/description-of-the-afn/.

Borrows, J. (2016). Heroes, tricksters, monsters, and caretakers: Indigenous law and legal education. McGill Law Journal/Revue de droit de McGill, 61(4), 795-846. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/1038489ar.

Brayboy, B. M. J., & Castagno, A. E. (2008). How might Native science inform “informal science learning”?. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3(3), 731-750. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-008-9125-x.

Brundtland, G., Khalid, M., Agnelli, S., Al-Athel, S., Chidzero, B., Fadika, L., Hauff, V., Lang, I., Shijun, M., Morino de Botero, M., Singh, M., Okita, S., Others, 1987. Our Common Future (’Brundtland Report’). Oxford University Press, USA. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf.

Bureau of Indian Affairs. (2021). Frequently Asked Questions. Indian Affairs. https://www.bia.gov/frequently-asked-questions#:~:text=A%20federally%20recognized%20tribe%20is,funding%20and%20services%20from%20the.

Cajete, G. A. (1999). Igniting the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Education Model. Kivaki Press, PO Box 1053, Skyland, NC 28776.

Cajete, G. A. (2015). Indigenous community: Rekindling the teachings of the seventh fire. Living Justice Press.

Caldwell, C. (2019). Indigenous Sustainability at College of Menominee Nation. Tribal College, 30(3), 42-43.

Cole, W. (2011). Uncommon schools: The global rise of post-secondary institutions for indigenous peoples. Stanford University Press.

Corntassel, J. (2020). Restorying Indigenous landscapes: Community regeneration and resurgence. Plants, people, and places: The roles of ethnobotany and ethnoecology in Indigenous peoples’ land rights in Canada and beyond, 350-361.

Craft, A. (2015). Ki’inaakonigewin: Reclaiming Space for Indigenous Law. Available at SSRN: DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3433224.

Crazy Bull, C., & White Hat, E. R. (2019). Cangleska Wakan: The ecology of the sacred circle and the role of tribal colleges and universities. International Review of Education, 65(1), 117-141. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-018-9760-8.

Davis, L. A., Wolniak, G. C., George, C. E., & Nelson, G. R. (2019). Demystifying tuition? A content analysis of the information quality of public college and university websites. AERA Open, 5(3), 2332858419867650. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858419867650.

Dockry, M. J., Hall, K., Van Lopik, W., & Caldwell, C. M. (2016). Sustainable development education, practice, and research: an indigenous model of sustainable development at the College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, WI, USA. Sustainability Science, 11(1), 127-138. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-015-0304-x.

Fairclough, N. (1993). Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: The universities. Discourse & society, 4(2), 133-168. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926593004002002.

Fredriksson, U., Kusanagi, K. N., Gougoulakis, P., Matsuda, Y., & Kitamura, Y. (2020). A Comparative Study of Curriculums for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Sweden and Japan. Sustainability, 12(3), 1123. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031123.

Government of Ontario. (2017). “Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017”. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/17i34a.

Hallmark, T. and Reed, T., (2016). Lessons From Ontario: An Analysis of Indigenous Post-Secondary Education. https://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/external-presentations/2016-lessons_from_ontario.pdf.

Hart, M. A., Straka, S., & Rowe, G. (2017). Working across contexts: Practical considerations of doing Indigenist/anti-colonial research. Qualitative Inquiry, 23(5), 332-342. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800416659084.

Hernandez P.M., Vargas V., Paucar-Cáceres A. (2018). Education for Sustainable Development: An Exploratory Survey of a Sample of Latin American Higher Education Institutions. In: Leal Filho W. (eds) Implementing Sustainability in the Curriculum of Universities. World Sustainability Series. (pp. 137-154). Springer, Cham. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-70281-0_9.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland.

Jenkins, A. L. (2007). Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada and the US. Higher Education Perspectives, 3(1).

Johnson, J. T., Howitt, R., Cajete, G., Berkes, F., Louis, R. P., & Kliskey, A. (2016). Weaving Indigenous and sustainability sciences to diversify our methods. Sustainability Science, 11(1), 1-11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-015-0349-x.

Laboucan-Massimo, M. (2017). From Our Homelands to the Tar Sands. In Downstream: reimagining water. Christian, D., & Wong, R. (Eds.). Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press.

Lažetić, P. (2020). Studying similarities and differences in higher education organisations based on their websites–comparative methodological approaches and research potential. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 23(1), 75-90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2019.1672286.

Leonard, K. (2021). Putting Indigenous Place-Names and Languages Back on Maps. ArcNews, (Winter). https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/arcnews/putting-indigenous-place-names-and-languages-back-on-maps/.

Lowan-Trudeau, G. (2020). Indigenous environmental media coverage in Canada and the United States: a comparative critical discourse analysis. The Journal of Environmental Education, 1-15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00958964.2020.1852525.

Lowan-Trudeau, G. (2017). Indigenous environmental education: the case of renewable energy projects. Educational Studies, 53(6), 601-613. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00131946.2017.1369084.

McCarthy, T. (2010). Dę'ni: s nisa'sgao'dę?: Haudenosaunee Clans and the Reconstruction of Traditional Haudenosaunee Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood. American Indian culture and research journal, 34(2), 81-101. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17953/aicr.34.2.yv6n3n601523m65k.

Northwest Indian College. (2020). “Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science”. https://www.nwic.edu/life-on-campus/degrees-and-certificates/b-s-in-native-environmental-science/.

Peach, L., Richmond, C. A., & Brunette-Debassige, C. (2020). “You can’t just take a piece of land from the university and build a garden on it”: Exploring Indigenizing space and place in a settler Canadian university context. Geoforum, 114, 117-127. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.06.001.

Ransom, J. W., & Ettenger, K. T. (2001). ‘Polishing the Kaswentha’: a Haudenosaunee view of environmental cooperation. Environmental science & policy, 4(4-5), 219-228. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1462-9011(01)00027-2.

Rose-Redwood, R., Blu Barnd, N., Lucchesi, A. H. E., Dias, S., & Patrick, W. (2020). Decolonizing the Map: Recentering Indigenous Mappings. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, 55(3), 151-162. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3138/cart.53.3.intro.

Saichaie, K., & Morphew, C. C. (2014). What college and university websites reveal about the purposes of higher education. The Journal of higher education, 85(4), 499-530. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2014.11777338.

Simpson, L. (2002). Indigenous environmental education for cultural survival. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), 7(1), 13-25.

Simpson, L. B. (2014). Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3).

Sitting Bull College. (2019). “Environmental Science Program Program Review Report”. https://sittingbull.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ens-program-review-final-copy-fno.pdf.

Sumida Huaman, E., Chiu, B., & Billy, C. (2019). Indigenous internationalization: Indigenous worldviews, higher education, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(101). https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/download/4366/2295.

Tribal College Journal. (2019). “Degree Programs at Tribal Colleges and Universities”. https://tribalcollegejournal.org/pdfs/Degree-Programs-at-Tribal-Colleges-and-Universities.pdf.

Tuck, E., McKenzie, M., & McCoy, K. (2014). Land education: Indigenous, post-colonial, and decolonizing perspectives on place and environmental education research. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2013.877708.

Warrior, R. (2012). Native Higher Education in the United States and Canada. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois. https://www.dese.gov.au/download/2670/native-higher-education-united-states-and-canada-report-review-higher-education-access-and-outcomes/3726/document/doc.

Whyte, K. P., Brewer, J. P., & Johnson, J. T. (2016). Weaving Indigenous science, protocols and sustainability science. Sustainability Science, 11(1), 25-32. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-015-0296-6.

Whyte, K., Caldwell, C., & Schaefer, M. (2018). Indigenous lessons about sustainability are not just for “all humanity.”. In: Sze J (ed) Sustainability: Approaches to Environmental Justice and Social Power. (pp.149–179). New York, New York: University Press.

Wildcat, M., McDonald, M., Irlbacher-Fox, S., & Coulthard, G. (2014). Learning from the land: Indigenous land based pedagogy and decolonization. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3).

Wilson, T. S., & Carlsen, R. L. (2016). School marketing as a sorting mechanism: A critical discourse analysis of charter school websites. Peabody Journal of Education, 91(1), 24-46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2016.1119564.

Wilson, S. (2007). Guest editorial: what is an Indigenist research paradigm?. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 30(2), 193.

Yellowhead Tribal College. (2020). “Renewable Energy Installation Assistant - Photovoltaic Program”. https://ytced.ab.ca/programs-courses/programs/renewable-energy-installation/.




How to Cite

Leonard, K. (2021). Turtle Island (North America) Indigenous Higher Education Institutions and Environmental Sustainability Education. Journal of Comparative &Amp; International Higher Education, 13(Summer), 90–133. https://doi.org/10.32674/jcihe.v13iSummer.3279



Summer 2021 Special Edition