In the current context of sustainability, described by some as a discourse of modernity (e.g. Cheney, Nheu & Vecellio, 2004), there is renewed interest in outdoor recreation, understood to be an important avenue to ‘re-connect’ humans and nature. Outdoor recreation is increasingly understood as a means to enhance the level of environmental awareness in students such that they become more conscious of how their own actions affect local and global environments (Louv, 2005). This UBC-HSS funded study aims to understand the meanings and conceptions associated with outdoor recreation activities. This research follows upon my doctoral study involving urban Indigenous youth and place-based learning.
Mural created by urban Indigenous youth
photo by Asokan Project
Categories such as ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ are social constructions reflecting particular ideologies and merits. Similarly, outdoor recreation can be understood as marked by cultural forms.
Wildflowers along the Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park
photo by Tracy L. Friedel
This research is an exploratory study of the outdoor recreation literature, work that involves exposing the field’s “ontologies of colonial common sense” (Stoler, 2008). Such work is critical in light of the popularization of outdoor recreation as a pedagogical strategy (i.e. to educate about the environment) in sustainable times. Understanding the field as constructed within a specific discursive framework and against a backdrop of relations of power and discipline (Stokowski, 2002) serves to illuminate the complex interactions between Indigenous peoples’ actions in the outdoors and the wider cultural, social, and environmental context in which these activities take place. Indigenous philosophies, cultural geography, sociology, politics and history are all important to this work. Such an understanding sets the stage for subsequent research focused on outdoor recreation in Indigenous contexts, the outcomes of which can contribute new thinking to the fields of both outdoor recreation and Indigenous education.
Dr. Tracy Friedel
Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy