Exploring Education, Activism, and the Outdoors

Gregory Lowan Trudeau backpacking

Exploring Education, Activism, and the Outdoors

“My time at Lakehead was transformational,” says Gregory Lowan-Trudeau, the winner of the 2014 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research from the Canadian Education Association. “I immediately felt a strong cultural and geographical connection to Northwestern Ontario."

But for this rising star, his Lakehead sojourn is just one part of his quest to expand how we think about education.  

Igloo building while a teaching assistant with Lakehead's OE3 program on Lake Marie Louise in 2008

Gregory grew up in Calgary, but his family’s cabin north of the city was one of his favourite childhood haunts. It offered the attractions of “canoeing, fishing, skiing, and just generally wandering in the woods,” Gregory says.

His fondness for the outdoors and athletics led Gregory to enrol in the University of Calgary’s Bachelor of Kinesiology program. After finishing his degree, Gregory taught English in Japan, followed by a stint as an outdoor pursuits and wellness program facilitator for young adults with disabilities in Calgary.

The power of physical activity and the natural environment to enrich the learning process inspired Gregory to return to school.

He was doing an online search for unique university education programs when he discovered Lakehead University’s Outdoor, Ecological and Experiential Education (OE3) program.

“As a Métis student interested in outdoor and environmental education, Lakehead’s focus on northern, environmental, and Indigenous studies made it a perfect fit.”

He graduated from Lakehead with a Bachelor of Education (First Class) in 2006, and then stayed on to do a Master of Education (Thesis). His time at Lakehead also gave him the opportunity to work as an instructor at Outward Bound Canada’s Giwaykiwin Program – a land-based Indigenous education initiative in north-central Ontario.

These experiences prompted him to pursue a PhD in intercultural and Indigenous environmental education at the University of Calgary. While still immersed in his PhD research, Gregory returned to lecture at Lakehead’s Thunder Bay campus.

Although he’s finished his degrees, Gregory has not slowed down.

He spent a year as an Assistant Professor of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). During that same period, Gregory co-organized an Idle No More teach-in series and engaged in ecological activism challenging the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.

“It was a very memorable year” Gregory says, “I realized that a lot of teaching and learning can happen through activism related to critical societal issues.”

Gregory left UNBC to accept a position as Assistant Professor of Indigenous Science and Environmental Education at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. He’s also excited about the release of his first book by Peter Lang Publishers in New York.

“I am part of a growing group of Indigenous scholars working to expand critical understanding of – and initiatives related to – First Nations, Métis, and Inuit education in our school and the university at large.”

Reflecting on his life so far, Gregory feels fortunate to be able to pursue his passions through his career – including spending time on the land and water with Elders, students, colleagues, and mentors.

“My time at Lakehead,” Gregory says, “was pivotal in setting me on this path.”