Tracking Denesoline Knowledge and Narratives along the Ancestral Waters of the Snowdrift River

Regions: South Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, traditional knowledge, governance

Principal Investigator: Belanger, Brendan BB (1)
Licence Number: 16143
Organization: University of Waterloo
Licenced Year(s): 2017
Issued: Jul 17, 2017
Project Team: Brendan Belanger (Student Researcher, University of Waterloo)

Objective(s): To record and highlight Denesoline Traditional Knowledge and stories transmitted during a multi-day travel experience on the Snowdrift River.

Project Description: The main objective of this study is to record and highlight Denesoline traditional knowledge (TK) and stories transmitted during a multi-day travel experience on the Snowdrift River. This research aims to highlight the importance of critically analysing the role of the researcher, highlighting Denesoline TK narratives instead of 'systemic others', and in highlighting the roles TK plays in self-determinant water governance programs.

This qualitative community engaged study will occur in three parts. These parts are separated by pre-trip, trip, and post-trip. Participants of this trip will be screened by the Wildlife, Lands and Environment Department and Ni Hat’ni. Inclusion material for participants of this trip are associated with being between the ages of 16-21, living in the community, and having been selected as being exemplary by the Wildlife, Lands and Environment Committee and Ni Hat’ni. Exclusionary material for participants pertain to age, physical ability to participate, and not being highlighted by the Wildlife, Lands and Environment Committee and Ni Hat’ni as a participant. Other screening criteria pertain to attending workshops pertaining to the trip and interviewing an elder as pertains to the trip (but not this study).

The first procedure to be used in this study are semi-structured interviews with youth participants on the trip. The purpose of a semi-structured interview is to gain an understanding of the life of the participant prior to a certain experience, in this instance the experience is the trip. The aim of using this method is to highlight Denesoline narratives prior to the trip, highlight social and or cultural changes in participants, and where this trip exists in their current walk of life. This procedure will occur in a 45 minute to 1 hour long interview in a public community location. The interview although open-ended, will follow along a guide as to what a life-history interview looks like generally. During this interview the Principal Investigator (PI) will also be taking notes to highlight the time, location, participant, date, and any observable nuances performed by the participant during the interview that will not be picked up by the audio recorder (i.e body language, eye contact, etc.). This interview will be recorded on a digital audio recorder provided by the researcher. Life-history interviews are within the mean of narrative inquiry which is the methodological design of this study

While on the trip there will be the use of several qualitative methods consisting of informal interviews, photographs, participant observations, and global positioning system (GPS) tracking using “Trailmark”. Eligibility criteria as it pertains to this portion of the study are that participants are on the trip.

Informal interviews happening on the trip will occur at random instances. Informal interviews will occur in order to gain context into instances including but not limited too traditional teachings, observed cultural, environmental, and or social change, personal experiences, and observations of interest as they pertain to the 5 research questions guiding this study. Informal interviews will be recorded on a digital recorder provided by the researcher. While interviewing the PI will be keeping tabs of interview duration, date, location, participants involved, and other notes in a research journal kept with the PI.

Photographs occurring on the trip will also be taken at random times as they pertain to the five research questions guiding this study. Photographs taken on the trip will be used for the purpose of constructing images for participants to further discuss during photo-elicited interviews completed during the post-trip phase of this study. Photographs during this trip will also provide context to specific GPS locations found on “Trailmark”. Photographs used in unison with “Trailmark” will allow for the community and for the PI to give a visual representation of places where a phenomenon related to the five research questions guiding this research has occurred. Photographs taken will be logged for location and date to be easily corresponded with the GPS counterpart.

During the trip participant observations will be one of the larger pools of collected material. Participant observation is the observing of an activity wherein the observer (who is typically the researcher) is also participating in the activity or experience. Documented observations will be first written into a field journal carried by the researcher using codes and acronyms known only to the researcher to protect confidentiality and the potential to make participants feel uncomfortable.

Ni Hat’ni will be providing the participants with GPS software “Trailmark” to highlight geological locations as they pertain to the objectives of this trip for the community of Lutsel K’e. The PI will be using the GPS coordinates of Trailmark to highlight important geographical locations where TK has been shared, narratives discussed, and important environmental, cultural, or social changes have occurred and been observed. GPS coordinates once back from the trip will be provided to the Lutsel K’e Traditional Knowledge Archive where they will be stored and used by the community and the governing bodies. Trailmark as an app works by having the user open the app while on trip, selecting where they are based on GPS coordinates and selecting that site and completing the list of questions generated by Ni Hat’ni as they pertain to the objective of the organisation.

The post-trip portion of this study focuses on photo-elicited interviews and a celebration of achievements for the community and youth.

Photo-elicited interviews are interviews wherein the participant is shown a collection of photos and is asked to express the narratives they associate with that photo. Each interview will be 45 mins to an hour and will be one-on-one with participants. Each interview will be recorded using a digital recorder provided by the researcher. Once the interview has been completed it will be uploaded onto a personal computer and transcribed for the purpose of analysis.

This study has been developed on an invitation from the Lutsel K'e Wildlife, Environment and Lands Department (WLED) and Ni Hat' ni. As organisations representing the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) this study has been incorporated to meet the needs expressed by the community. This study is built upon the Tracking Change initiative and as such the community focus of this travel experience along the Snowdrift River is for land users to pass down traditional knowledge, skills, and ecological monitoring onto LKDFN Youth.

All data collected on this trip will be stored in the Lutsel K'e TK archive which is accessible to the community upon request. After the trip, there will also be a workshop celebration for youth and participants to celebrate their accomplishments and knowledge gained. Academically, the PI intends to provide the community with a presentation of the finalised results to ensure that anything is not misinterpreted. The finalised report will also be made accessible to the community in a condensed printable version made accessible at local community spaces in Lutsel K'e.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 17, 2017 to August 10, 2017.