TRACKS Youth Program Explores the Harmonies of Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Science

We need multiple knowledge systems to address our environmental challenges, says Trent prof Dan Longboat

A summer camp and youth mentorship program based out of Trent University is encouraging youth to engage with Indigenous knowledge and modern science holistically rather than separately.

The initiative is called TRACKS (Trent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science) and the team behind it is preparing for another season of camp sessions and workshops, which will be held at Trent University, Scugog First Nation, and Curve Lake First Nation this summer.

Tipi TeachingsTRACKS aims to instill pride and respect for Indigenous knowledge systems among its participants, to demonstrate how different ways of knowing the world are interconnected, and to encourage youth to consider math and science as valuable skills in their lives.

Dan Longboat, director of Trent’s Indigenous Environmental Program, says TRACKS was founded in 2011 in order to “create an education program that would recognize Indigenous knowledge but at the same time work with science and technology, in particular around environmental issues.”

“Think of it as having more tools in your toolbelt,” Longboat explains, “rather than just one knowledge system.” Longboat says we need both these knowledge systems “working in concert with one another to address the complexity of the environmental issues we’re facing now.”

One popular workshop at the camp, for example, introduces students to a traditional Anishinaabe strawberry teaching—using the strawberry and its place in the Anishinaabe Creation story to teach students about growth, forgiveness, self-discipline and peace—while also leading them through the process of extracting DNA from strawberries.

Kristin Muskratt, a coordinator at TRACKS, says that bringing these two worlds together “makes it a lot easier to view certain situations, especially in environmental science.”

Longboat estimates that the program has impacted 7,000 youth from Peterborough and Durham since it was started seven years ago. Now, he says he sees youth who have completed the program coming to Trent University, and signing up for Indigenous Studies and science courses, a sign that the program is a success.

“We’re making the next Indigenous David Suzukis,” Longboat says.


The TRACKS camp at Trent University is open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth alike, and there is a session running from July 30 to August 3, 2018. For more information about that camp session and TRACKS’ other programming, visit their website or email

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Will Pearson

Will Pearson

Will Pearson is a freelance journalist based in Peterborough, Ontario. He has written for a variety of local and national publications, and he is the host of the Peterborough Currents podcast.