Tracking Change... Local and Traditional Knowledge in Watershed Governance

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, government involvement, communication

Principal Investigator: Parlee, Brenda L (18)
Licence Number: 16515
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2019 2019 2017 2016
Issued: Jun 26, 2019
Project Team: Brenda Parlee (Principal Investigator., University of Alberta), Sydney Stenekes (Graduate Student, University of Alberta), Multiple Community Reps. (Project Leads, Various ), Trevor Lantz (Co-Applicant, University of Victoria), David Natcher (Co-Applicant, University of Saskatchewan), Leon Andrew (Collaborator , Sahtu Renewable Resources Board), Jennifer Fresque-Baxter (Co-applicant - Partner, GNWT), Amy Amos (Collaborator - Partner, Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board), Deb Simmons (Co-applicant - Partner, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board), Lauren King (Collaborator - Partner, Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation), Diane Giroux (Collaborator - Partner, Akaitcho Territory Government), Dahti Tsetso (Collaborator - Partner , Deh Cho First Nations), Melody Lepine (Collaborator - Partner , Mikisew Cree First Nation ), Kevin Ahkimnachie (Collaborator - Partner, Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta), Joseph Tsannie (Collaborator - Partner , Prince Albert Grand Council), Kristin Hynes/Vanessa Cunningham (Partner, Inuvialuit Fisheries Joint Management Ctte.)

Objective(s): To create opportunities to collaboratively document and share local and traditional knowledge (LTK) about social-ecological change in the Mackenzie River Basin, Lower Mekong, and Lower Amazon Basins and determine its’ role in watershed governance.

Project Description: Tracking Change: Local and Traditional Knowledge in Watershed Governance is a six-year research program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and led by the University of Alberta, Mackenzie River Basin Board, and the Government of the Northwest Territories in collaboration with many other valued Aboriginal organization partners and universities. The broad goal of the project is to create opportunities to collaboratively document and share local and traditional knowledge (LTK) about social-ecological change in the Mackenzie River Basin, Lower Mekong, and Lower Amazon Basins and determine its’ role in watershed governance. In 2016-17, the project will funded 8-10 community-based and collaborative research activities in the Mackenzie River Basin that deal with all or some of following themes and priorities:
1) historical and contemporary observations and perceptions of conditions and change in the health of the aquatic environment (e.g., water quality, quantity, flow, groundwater, permafrost conditions);
2) historical and contemporary observations and perceptions of conditions and change in fish species (population, movements, diversity, invasive species) and other aquatic species (e.g., geese, beaver);
3) sustainability of fishing livelihoods (e.g., harvesting levels and practices, diet, health, access issues, perceptions of change in the health of valued fish species); and,
4) implications of change for governance (e.g., how to maintain healthy relationships to the aquatic ecosystem, maintaining respectful and spiritual relationships, respecting treaty rights).

These priorities were recommended in a workshop with the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy Aboriginal Steering Committee and the Mackenzie River Basin Board (MRRB) Traditional Knowledge and Strengthening Partnerships Committee (TKSPC), Feb. 10, 2016. Additional input was asked of the partners and other members of the Project Team by email in October 2015. Work was carried out in 2016-2018 in multiple communities in the NWT. The aim is to do similar work between 2019-2020.

Another key objective of the current project is to scope community interest in more specific research and knowledge sharing opportunities for youth focused on science and Traditional Knowledge. A "Northern Youth Knowledge and Innovation Exchange" network is proposed such that communities can apply for funding to carry out work related to the following:
1) develop a northern-led program that ensures ongoing respect for TK and creates new opportunities for collaborative learning opportunities based on TK and science-engineering Knowledge;
2) mobilize diverse knowledge’s and technologies within and between communities in the Mackenzie River Basin;
3) create opportunities to mobilize knowledge that are ecologically specific (place-based) and cultural meaningful;
4) network together (share knowledge) with other youth across the Mackenzie River Basin;
5) create outcomes from the project that ensure long term benefits for northern communities and provide a strong and meaningful voice for youth within Canada and on a global stage.

The Tracking Change… is a 6 year project funded by Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada; It was developed in collaboration with the Traditional Knowledge Committee of the Mackenzie River Basin Board project developed in recognition that river systems are important social, economic, cultural and ecological places that contribute significantly to the well-being of many communities. Many river users have been observing and experiencing what is going on in the same places, in the same way, using the same signs/signals for many generations. Such tracking of change, has been more than a technical process; people watch, listen, learn and communicate about change because they care about the health of the land and the health of their communities. Many residents are increasingly concerned about the stresses being created by petroleum resource development, mining, hydro-electric development as well as climate change. How can local and traditional knowledge generated over many generations help ensure the continued health and sustainability of the Mackenzie River Basin?

The Aboriginal organizations, government and co-management boards involved in the project have each submitted research proposals to "Tracking Change" that address the following:

a) What are the patterns of variability and change in fishing livelihoods being documented and experienced in the Mackenzie-Mekong-Amazon? What kinds of variability and change are being observed in the health, location, diversity, distribution of fish species valued for subsistence in each? What kind of social networks exist for sharing knowledge related to the condition of the fisheries? How have/are fishing practices and outcomes changing in response to these ecological shifts (e.g., changes in practices, harvest, food sharing patterns, food security)?
b) How are/can communities work together (upstream/downstream) to deal with these social- ecological changes in ways that ensure the continued sustainability fishing livelihoods?
c) How are fishing livelihoods interconnected at different scales (local, regional, global)?
d) How are fishing livelihoods sustainable in the face of emergent stresses of resource development and climate change?

The organizations (above) are collectively leading research activities in their own communities and regions with support from academic team members. They will use a combination of semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping to answer these broad thematic questions on change in water quality, water levels, flow, fish population dynamics, diversity and condition as well as implication of such ecological change on the livelihood of communities. The outcomes of the research activities will be shared and synthesized at the end of the study respecting their choices on consent forms (i.e. some don't want their names used in reports etc.). Community and regional government consent is assumed to be given by virtue of their submission of their individual proposals. Only knowledge shared by the Aboriginal organizations through a reporting process will be used by academic team members in publications, graduate student theses etc.

There are opportunities for Indigenous communities, governments and co-management boards to apply for funding for community-based research. Community project leads may have the opportunity to participate in regional or international meetings related to the sharing of results from their projects. Graduate students are also available to train and mentor community researchers.

The Aboriginal organizations, governments and co-management boards, leading the community projects will develop their own reports with the support of graduate students who are participating upon invitation of these organizations. These reports will be made public unless otherwise indicated by the Aboriginal organizations.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 26, 2019 to December 31, 2019.