Outdoor Education R&E Center

Indigenous Knowledge
& Outdoor Education

James Neill
Last updated:
31 Oct 2006

What's new?

  • Indigenous Knowledge & Outdoor EducationDon't destroy us - Our way of life is as complicated as yours
    (Miriam Ross, 8 August, 2004, Survival International)
    The last surviving hunter-gathered tribes continue to be persecuted and attacked.  With the impending loss of habit and culture for the few remaining communities of hunter-gatherers, humanity is waving goodbye to the last remnants of its complex cultural and evolutionary heritage -- and much that such lifestyles could teach us.  A man from one of the last nomadic Brazilian Amazon tribes said, ‘We’re getting cornered as the whites close in... We are always fleeing. Without the forest we have no way of surviving and we’ll be extinct. But we’re going to fight for our land, we’re not going to let the whites in. We’re not going to let them finish our land. We want to raise our children here.’
  • Drum circles are the rage but what do they do?
    (Michael Regan, 23 February, 2004, The Courier Journal)
  • Naked Rambler to fight on
    (BBC News, 26 February, 2004)
  • Naked Rambler vows to walk on
    (BBC News, 26 August, 2003)
  • Nature as healer
    (Tim Corcoran, Headwaters Outdoor School)


Indigenous games & activities

Rites of passage in outdoor education

A psycho-evolutionary theory of outdoor education

An indigenous (Squamish) outdoor education program

Call for indigenous perspectives in outdoor education

Ancient land - current connections  - Graham Ellis-Smith (2003)



An indigenous (Squamish) outdoor education program

"The teacher-elder Kee-lee-la whose name means butterfly met us at the train station. She explained how the Squamish people travelled either on foot or by canoe. She let us past a salmon stream and through woods lush with wild berries and fragile bleeding hearts. The students were very excited to see the huge Big House. The matriarch of the Squamish elders at the Big House, Kek-yik, met us. She welcomed everyone to Squamish land and she told us of the importance of the river for the Squamish people. Then shortly after the Name Giving Ceremony began, Kek-yik’s daughter Sunshine gave all the students and teachers a Squamish names like, wolf, bear, blueberry and story legend names like Wountie and that was the name I received. Also each student and teacher were placed in a family group: food gathers, wood workers, wool weavers, cedar bark workers, hunters, and fishers. To accept the family group and name each student and teacher did a dance with cedar boughs. Each family group gained different skills and awareness from the elders." (Elliot, n. d.)


Call for indigenous perspectives in outdoor education

I am looking to connect with people and places exploring indigenous perspectives in outdoor education.



I have been spurred on recently by contact with Ricardo Sierra, writer, thinker, creator and director of the Earth Mentoring Institute and Hawk Circle Wilderness Center.

Whilst in the US there are many nature-based and skill-based survival, tracking, hunting, etc. programs there is a surprising lack of connection with the  adventure-based programming approaches.  Many possible comings together of these approaches are yet to be discovered.  Through Ricardo's thinking, programs, instructor trainings, and writings we can start to glimpse new and powerful possibilities for integrating indigenous knowledge and outdoor education.


Another inspiring person I've met along the journey of learning more about indigenous possibilities in outdoor education is Graham Ellis-Smith, who wrote an article called "Rediscovering Your Indigenous Heart" in the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education.  Graham was a park ranger who become fascinated by Australian Aboriginal knowledge and ways of life.  After completing a BA in Aboriginal Studies he was posted to work as a ranger in a remote region of Western Australia.  As he got to know the local Aboriginal people, he was invited by them to understand their ways, their training, their rituals, their knowledge.  They asked him to help others understand what they know.  Read more in Ancient Land-Current Connections.


Today Graham runs some powerful workshops, including "Rediscovering Your Indigenous Heart" which helps people to reconnect with their indigeneity and indigenous knowledge and give them techniques for accessing the knowledge and power of themselves and their surrounding environment.

I am interested to contact other people and places working with indigenous knowledge and ways it can be integrated with outdoor education.



Elliott, S. (n. d.) Outdoor education [describes a grade 4 program to enhance understanding of native Squamish people]. Indigezine.



Primitive Living Articles - www.abotech.com


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International Community for EcoPsychology

Virtual Mountain Wilderness Foundation

Sacred Lands

A Tribute to the Native People