Thinking the highest thought: Theatrical expression and indigenous education

I wish to forward the idea that theatrical expression is an inherent and foundational aspect of Indigenous models for environmental education, which themselves can form the basis of attempts to achieve “the highest thought.” This term is defined by Gregory Cajete as: “thinking of one’s self, one’s community, and one’s environment richly" (46).

Theatrical expression has many meanings and associations, particularly in contemporary Western politics and society, therefore it is essential to define that my evocation relates most closely to the Greek understanding of Drama, meaning “to live through” (Heathcote, 1984, p. 80). In this understanding, drama, like Indigenous educational practice, is an inherent part of living, and not something divisible or expendable from daily activities. This relates also to the role that art served and serves within traditional Indigenous communities and to the goal expressed by many environmentalists, and environmental educators, that connection to a natural landscape become a part of daily living.

An exploration of Gregory Cajete's "Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education" exposes the numerous and dynamic associations between a "Tribal" ethic of environmental education, and the creative capacities of theatrical expression. It is through this examination that environmental education, Indigenous education and theatrical expression will be brought into connection.

By way of conclusion it is also anticipated that the forays that the Theater in Education (TIE) movement has made into current curriculum will provide a significant model for the application of Indigenous and environmental teaching and learning methodologies within the school system.