Building Indigenous Knowledge

Valerie Campbell smiles as she sits in the KC Irving Centre Conservatory

This May, Acadia University student Valerie Campbell will be joining 11 other students from the Maple League of Universities (Acadia, Mount Allison, Bishop’s, and St. Francis Xavier) for a two-week study abroad experience in Belize. This Global Skills Opportunity program aims to remove barriers for Indigenous students and build Indigenous knowledge internationally by sharing their experiences and learning from Indigenous communities abroad.  

Originally from Manitoba, Campbell is a member of Peguis First Nation and is First Nation Cree Anishnaabe. She began her studies at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in Indigenous Studies and then transferred to Acadia University to join the Community Development program.  

“One of the first questions you’re asked in the program is ‘what is community?’” says Campbell. “Some consider a community a group of people who all live in the same place or a group of people who have the same interests like a sports team. Community through my lens, through an Indigenous lens, is the relationship we have with one another as humans, our relationships with non-human living aspects of our world (like the birds, the water, and the trees), and the third aspect is how we as humans affect these non-living aspects of our lives.”  
For Campbell, community and conservation are deeply intertwined. “In my culture, everything is interconnected. Without the non-human living aspects of our world, we cannot exist.”  

Studying in Belize will allow Campbell to learn about Indigenous-led community-based conservation efforts that are taking place to help save the Maya Rainforest.  

“The Maya Rainforest is the second-largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon, and the Indigenous people of Belize are part of what helps protect it. I am interested to see what their conservation practices are for their forest and if any of those practices could be applicable here in forest conservation efforts,” says Campbell.  

At the Belize Field School, students will have the opportunity to learn about the Yucatec, Mopan, Garinagu, and K’eckchi cultures through field trips to locations, in-class teaching, and community engagement.  

“Getting into conversations and sharing what I have to offer is exciting,” says Campbell, “because I know our conservation efforts and practices vary from theirs. I am excited to engage in these conversations.”

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