Sustainability Education in First Nations Schools: A Multi-site Study and Implications for Education Policy


  • Davida Bentham University of Saskatchewan
  • Alex Wilson University of Saskatchewan
  • Marcia McKenzie Sustainability Education Research Institute, University of Saskatchewan
  • Lori Bradford University of Saskatchewan


This paper explores sustainability uptake in education policy in First Nations-managed K-12 schools and analyzes the implications of barriers for practices in First Nations’ educational communities. Interviews were conducted with educators across four different Canadian schools and content analysis used to draw out key themes of analysis. Themes include educators’ articulations of relationships to land, including of a relational-legacy of living in an implicitly sustainable and respectful way. Participants also described how culturally and geographically relevant pedagogical approaches to sustainability are challenged by systemic and localized barriers. Participants perceived under-resourcing and administrative barriers to limit integration of sustainability across curricular areas, hindering educators’ abilities to develop appropriate innovative programming and resources for First Nations’ students. Success in overcoming these obstacles was described as being achieved through harnessing community resources to indirectly include sustainability in the curriculum. Implications for local and global Indigenous educators, policy makers, and agencies are discussed.