Culturally Appropriate Search and Rescue (SAR) Prevention and Survival Training in the Sahtú Region, Northwest Territories: An On-the-Land Program
Principal Investigator: Giles, Audrey R. (16)
Licence Number: 16157
Organization: University of Ottawa
Licenced Year(s): 2017
Issued: Aug 15, 2017
Project Team: Deborah Simmons (Co-Investigator, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board)

Objective(s): To determine how on-the-land programming can strengthen Sahtú residents’ ability to avoid the need for search and rescue and their chances of survival if search and rescue is needed.

Project Description: The research question is "how can on-the-land programming strengthen Sahtú residents’ ability to avoid the need for search and rescue and their chances of survival if search and rescue is needed?"

The main objectives of this project are to:
1) provide youth with the opportunity to experience life on-the-land in a safe and controlled environment;
2) share traditional knowledge from elders to youth concerning safety and to avoid the need for search and rescue;
3) ensure future generations have the education, skills, and knowledge needed for survival on the land if they ever require search and rescue;
4) have select outside experts share information about mainstream safety and survival practices with youth and elders and to collaboratively translate this knowledge into culturally appropriate resources that can be shared throughout the Sahtú Region; and,
5) develop objectives and a scope for future SAR prevention work in the Sahtú Region.

The delivery mechanisms are a two-week on-the-land camp, as well as preparation and presentation of prevention communication and planning materials.

For the camp, participants will travel to and meet in one Sahtú community. From there, participants will leave town by either boat or skidoo. This camp will provide a safe setting for youth to learn about their identities as Dene and Métis from their elders, with a specific focus on the knowledge required for them to be safe as they hunt, fish, trap, gather, and travel across their traditional territories and beyond. The youth will learn and practice safety and survival skills to help facilitate their ability to safely travel the land by themselves in the future. Approximately half the day will be spent on tasks related to maintaining camp, which in and of themselves are survival techniques. The other half of the day will be dedicated to focus group sessions to learn safety and survival techniques, develop prevention awareness materials, and scope future search and rescue (SAR) prevention needs in the Sahtú Region.

The research team will use a participatory research methodology. Participatory research attempts to negotiate a balance between developing valid generalizable knowledge and benefiting the community that is being researched and to improve research protocols by incorporating the knowledge and expertise of community members. Collaboration, education and action are all key elements of participatory research, an approach that strengthens the research project due to the sharing of power, decision making and leadership from design to dissemination.

Data collection will include focus group sessions at the camp, participant employed photography, and digital storytelling.

Focus groups are a unique method of group interviewing for researchers to gain insight of a group’s beliefs and norms. The research team will use audio-recorded focus groups throughout the camp to address several research components, including assessment of baseline knowledge and post-intervention (camp) knowledge, cross-cultural knowledge exchange, development of SAR prevention materials, and evaluation of expectations and experiences of the camp.

Youth participants will take photos throughout their time at the on-the-land camp. All youth will then select two photos that they believe convey especially important information about safety and survival. They will then write a brief story about that photo. The photos and stories will be compiled into a photo book that will be distributed throughout the region and will be used in the youth’s presentations back to their communities.

The research team will also compile a video about the on-the-land camp. The use of photo-voice or digital storytelling will assist in effectively accessing, analyzing, and sharing stories in the health sector. Digital storytelling is an approach that emphasizes personal voice and experiences by weaving narrative, images, motion, and music, creating a multi-dimensional story. The video will be compiled by the participants. The research team will then work with WAMP (Western Arctic Moving Pictures) to create a final film that reflects key information about safety and survival in our Region. Drafts of the film content will be vetted by Special Advisors to the Sahtú Renewable Resource Board (SRRB) (i.e., elders, hunters, trappers, fishers, and gathers from our communities).

At least 15 youth participants (3 from each Sahtú community) will learn under the guidance of at least four elders and knowledge holders from the Sahtú communities. The focus groups will mainly be conducted in English; however, an interpreter will be available if needed.

Youth will be from ages 18-30 years, live in one of the five communities in the Sahtú Region, and be a member of the Sahtú Youth Network

Elders and knowledge holders will live in one of the five communities in the Sahtú Region, be identified as an elder in the community, and hold traditional knowledge about safety and survival on the land

The main participants who will be attending the on-the-land program, the youth and the elders, will be from communities in the Sahtú Region. The youth will also have the opportunity to share the knowledge that they have gained with students in their communities. Sahtú Renewable Resources Board staff will also attend the camp for organizational and safety purposes. The program will be planned with guidance and approval from the SRRB members and special advisors, and in collaboration with the five Renewable Resource Councils from Sahtú communities.

The youth will all give presentations on what they learned at the camp in their home communities upon their return. Community presentations in each Sahtú community will include a poster, photo-voice video, public presentation and school activities designed at the camp, and reviewed by the Sahtú Environmental Research and Monitoring Forum as well as local Renewable Resource Councils. Facebook posts and a webpage will also be prepared drawing upon and complementing the other materials.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 16, 2017 to December 31, 2017.