UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 8 | Sep.
Harvard-Educated Native American Scholar Joins UBC Forestry
By Brian Lin
There are simply too few Aboriginal people employed in the
forestry sector in B.C., especially considering that more
than 80 per cent of Canada’s First Nations are located
on forest land, according to Ron Trosper, the latest faculty
member of Forest Resource Management in the Faculty of Forestry.
Of more than 3,000 registered professional foresters in
B.C., only 12 of them, or 0.4 per cent, are of Aboriginal
Armed with a PhD from Harvard and the experience of founding
the Native American Forestry Program at Northern Arizona University,
Trosper, of Salish and Kootenai ancestry, is determined to
change that. As an associate professor of aboriginal forestry
he will participate in developing the faculty’s Aboriginal
“This is an exciting academic focus for the faculty,”
says dean Jack Saddler.
And a prudent one. Prior to 1994, only three Aboriginal
students were known to have graduated from the faculty. Since
then, 22 have completed their studies, including some at the
master’s and PhD level.
“There is an urgent need to increase the role of Aboriginal
people in managing and caring for the land,” says Trosper.
“Recent court decisions are indicating that huge changes
are in store in Aboriginal participation in forestry, yet
there are still many barriers to Aboriginal students who wish
to pursue post-secondary education.”
One of Trosper’s main goals will be increasing university-level
research with First Nations communities, without losing sight
of proper research protocols that respect traditional culture
and practical needs.
“There is a long history of dispossession in how the
industry and researchers have worked with Aboriginal people,”
says Trosper. “It’s important to realize that
First Nations people don’t reject advances in technology
and science -- in fact, they embrace them -- but there’s
a very different way in which they see the world.
“The forest is surrounded in a social context, and
to Aboriginal people, it’s obvious that living in, modifying
and taking care of the forest are one and the same. You can’t
manage the forest without getting to know the people.”
Trosper has hit the ground running since he arrived in Vancouver
in July. He and Saddler have already travelled up to Haida
Gwaii off B.C.’s northwest coast to meet with community
leaders, government officials and industry representatives.
When asked what attracted him to UBC, he pointed to the
strong graduate program at the faculty. He wants to see more
Aboriginal people pursue advanced degrees so there is a “permanent
presence” of Aboriginal people in academia.
“There is great potential for UBC to be a leader in
Aboriginal forestry education,” he says.