First Nations help guide future foresters' studies

by Sean Kelly
Staff writer

As the Faculty of Forestry's new co-ordinator of forestry programs for First Nations, Madeleine MacIvor will oversee a series of initiatives that have introduced First Nations content into the Forestry curriculum, and made forestry education more accessible to First Nations students.

MacIvor takes over Nov. 1 from Gordon Prest, who was the first co-ordinator when the position was created three years ago in collaboration with the First Nations House of Learning.

The initiatives he helped develop have attracted attention from forestry schools throughout Canada and abroad.

"There is a need for First Nations to develop their capacity to enhance, manage and protect natural resources within their traditional territories," says MacIvor, who is currently co-ordinator of student services and community liaison co-ordinator at First Nations House of Learning. "And non-aboriginal students need to learn about First Nations issues so that they have a clear understanding of the context they will be working in as foresters."

When Prest started as co-ordinator, there was only one First Nations student in Forestry. That student graduated last spring, and there are now 13 First Nations students pursuing Forestry degrees.

Forestry Dean Clark Binkley says the First Nations initiatives are a model for the rest of the world.

"Few First Nations people have gone through forest resources management programs anywhere in the world. I think many other professional forestry schools will benefit from our experience."

The universities of Northern B.C., Lethbridge, Toronto and Northern Arizona are among the institutions looking to UBC for ideas as they plan similar arrangements for First Nations students.

Forestry gives an annual course entitled "Perspectives on First Nations and Forest Lands."

As well, a guide for incorporating First Nations content into forestry education has been created. It came out of the Indigenous Perspectives in Forestry Education Workshop held at UBC this summer which attracted participants from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

A council of First Nations advisers from throughout B.C. provides guidance to the program on how to meet First Nations students' forestry education needs.