Sahtú Benígodi: Traditional Knowledge of Great Bear Lake and its Watershed
Principal Investigator: Spring, Andrew (8)
Licence Number: 16301
Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: May 04, 2018
Project Team: Gina Bayha (Co-I, Tsa Tue Biosphere Reserve), Charlie Neyelle (Co-I, Deline Elders Council), Morris Neyelle (Co-I, Tsa Tue Biosphere Reserve), Margaret Mills (Graduate Student, Wilfrid Laurier University)

Objective(s): To build a comprehensive database of Traditional Knowledge of the Great Bear Lake and its watershed to form an environmental baseline for the cumulative impacts of climate change and development.

Project Description: The purpose of this project is to build a comprehensive database of Traditional Knowledge of the Great Bear Lake and its watershed to form an environmental baseline for the cumulative impacts of climate change and development. By compiling the rich history and stories from existing literature, studies and other initiatives from the community, the research team will be able to build a comprehensive understanding of the historic conditions of the area. This will allow the community and decision-makers to assess the impacts of past, present and future developments and activities on the Great Bear Lake watershed and the people of Deline. It will form a baseline for studies on the effects of climate change, some of which are already evident.

The project will focus on the community of Déline, and include Traditional knowledge and other relevant information about Great Bear Lake and its watershed. From planning to execution, the project will use a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach that contributes to the practical concerns of the community through the active collaboration of researchers and participants in co-learning. Consistent with other work in the North, this project will be done with research partners working alongside members of the community, observing – but also contributing to – their activities. In the spirit of participatory action research (PAR), this project will be developed through close consultation with community members and project partners through meetings and workshops. This PAR approach ensures the research process is community-driven, responds to community stakeholder needs and enables the community to fully engage in every part of the research.

The foundation of this project will be to collect available Traditional Knowledge data from existing sources to create a comprehensive understanding of the past conditions of the lake and its watershed. This will be done through a review of relevant literature and other existing sources of traditional Knowledge (including recordings, unpublished studies, and stories). Contacting and connecting various local and territorial organizations that might have access to old studies and reports that would contain relevant Traditional Knowledge will be a key component of the project. Additional Traditional Knowledge to fill important gaps will be collected through interviews with Elders by asking them to describe locations around the lake in terms the changes they have witnessed over time. These interviews will be video and audio recorded. Recorded interviews, including older recordings collected through the scan of exiting literature and resources, will be transcribed or summarized as deemed appropriate and as funds are available. All data collected, through literature and interviews, will be discussed and reported to the research team where conversations about the content, relevance, and locations, will be held to help categorize and catalogue the data. The finalized data will be added to an online mapping framework already developed by the community as part of a Cumulative Impact Monitoring-funded Dene Place Names Project. An interactive website will be developed to highlight project outcomes and serve as a database for all data collected that will become an educational resource, access to which will be controlled by the community.

Part of this research will also include working with youth to develop capacity and interest in environmental research and monitoring by participating in the recording of Traditional Knowledge. Working with the local high school, students will have the opportunity to participate in audio and video recording of Elders sharing their Traditional Knowledge of the area and therefore learn about the land directly from the Elders. The students can travel to nearby locations and discuss what was shared with them by the Elders, and how these locations have changed over time. This will help to facilitate a youth photovoice project or digital storytelling activity to document their reflections and observations.

As part of this project, a Community Researcher will assist and be heavily involved and instrumental in all aspects of the research. The community researcher will be fluent in North Slavey which will be critical as many recordings and documents will be in North Slavey. This researcher will also play an integral part in community engagement of the project and be integral in interviews and data collection and communication.

As the Tsá Tué Biosphere Reserve is closely linked with the Déline Got’ine Government, key local decision-makers have been and will continue to be engaged as part of the development and implementation of this project. The Déline Got’ine Government (DGG) as the owner and administrator of the Deline lands plays a key role in management of land and water resources in the Biosphere Reserve. This project supports the DGG vision for stewardship. Déline is also linked to other decision-making entities such as Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board and, the Sahtu Land Use Planning Board, and the Sahtu Land and Water Board, all of which have been or will be engaged as part of this project.

Throughout the project, these key decision makers and other community members will be engaged and updated through regular Biosphere Reserve meetings, project workshops and meetings as well as on-going dialog and personal communications. As many of these entities are closely linked, either through shared members/representatives or geographically, methods of keeping these decision makers engaged are already in place.

Information generated from this project will serve as an environmental baseline against which developments (current and planned) and the effects of climate change can be measured. It will be a community tool to support future land use decisions and support community dialog and involvement with other regional and territorial entities. It will inform the direction of future Traditional Knowledge and research activities in the region by identifying knowledge gaps or community concerns about the health of the biosphere. It will become an integral part of the planned Déline Guardians program, currently under development.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 2, 2018 to August 31, 2018.