Dr. Nancy Turner – a long-time champion of Indigenous traditional knowledge who has spent more than four decades exploring the human relationship to our natural environment – is one of five 2015 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellows.
Turner, a sought-after speaker about traditional lands in Oak Bay, earned the national honour as recognition of her career-long devotion to understanding and communicating the crucial role that plants play in Indigenous cultures and languages, especially with respect to land rights and ancestral territories.
A professor in the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies and the Hakai Research Chair in Ethnoecology at UVic, Turner specializes in ethnoecological studies with Western Canadian Indigenous peoples, particularly on B.C.’s central coast.
The fellowship allows for sharing of information with the other four honourees.
“It has been a wonderful privilege to meet and spend time with the other four Fellows, each of whom is a leader in their field,” Turner said. “They, in their projects, are also presenting and addressing deep ethical questions that relate to laws and governance, rights of individuals, including minority groups. We have met together twice so far, but will be able to meet and discuss our projects, and obtain feedback on our ideas, protocols and approaches for our projects, over the next few years. Each of them has both expertise and wisdom to contribute, and I will definitely be able to draw on this as my own project unfolds.”
As part of her fellowship project, Turner proposed a two- to three-day symposium for spring 2017 to gather Indigenous leaders and knowledge holders, legal scholars, ethnobotanists, ethnoecologists and students.
“The symposium is still very much a work in progress, as I hope to develop it with consultation. It will focus on various aspects of law and policy relating to Indigenous land rights and occupancy, and to resource use planning and decision-making, in terms of how knowledge, use and management of plants and habitats might be more fully represented in deliberations,” she said.
“Laws such as the Heritage Conservation Act and Forest Act as well as old and new treaties and treaty negotiations, parks and protected areas – all of these will be considered through the lens of Indigenous plant use, knowledge and practice. I hope that participants will include First Nations’ leaders and environmental experts, people in the legal profession, ecologists and botanists, government representatives, educators and interested youth.”
Outcomes from the symposium would be presented in a variety of forms, including at least one publication.
Turner is the fourth UVic professor to be honoured with a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship.
“Dr. Turner is a person of deep integrity, social commitment, and eloquence, who has combined scholarship at the highest level with public education, far-reaching contributions to the policy process, and the promotion of dialogue among governments, the public and First Nations peoples,” said Jamie Cassels, UVic president.
The awards are made by an independent jury of researchers and intellectuals and support the winners as they pursue the next stages of their academic research. Turner will receive $225,000 over the next three years.
For more information visit trudeaufoundation.ca.