Community Perspectives on Changing Caribou Populations: Traditional Knowledge Networks of Gwich'in Caribou Hunters
Principal Investigator: Wray, Kristine E J (3)
Licence Number: 14201
Organization: University of Alberta
Licensed Year(s): 2008 2007
Issued: Jul 21, 2007

Objective(s): The objectives of this study are to investigate the scope and extent of Aboriginal knowledge networks concerning caribou, and to explore the extent to which traditional knowledge, generated by the individual hunter/community, is flowing up through the co-management organizations to be utilized in co-management processes.

Project Description: The objectives of this study are:
1)Investigate the scope and extent of Aboriginal knowledge networks concerning caribou; to what extent do harvesters draw upon local knowledge, traditional knowledge and/or scientific data generated by government and other sources to make their decisions about where, when and with whom to harvest?
2) Explore the extent to which traditional knowledge, generated by the individual hunter/community, is flowing up through the co-management organizations to be utilized in co-management processes. How does orally-based knowledge change when written and when it encounters the literate structures of western style co-management institutions?

It is anticipated that communication work with the local organizations will allow the researcher to pre-select and contact potential interviewees based on the following criteria: a) caribou hunter involved in caribou co-management processes b) interest in participating in the research, c) availability.

The research sample will consist of Aboriginal caribou harvesters, government representatives, and co-management board members involved in management of the Porcupine and Bluenose herds. Among harvesters, informants of various ages will be sought as they will offer different perspectives on knowledge acquisition. For example, elders are less likely to seek information through news, radio, and internet media than younger community members, and may rely more on word-of-mouth, and social and kin networks, to gather and transmit information. It is anticipated that the investigators will interview between 20-30 individuals according to the methodology and procedures below.
Qualitative methods will be used, specifically open-ended individual interviews and participant observation of the processes, events, and interactions before and after the caribou hunt. The investigator will draw on methods adapted to Aboriginal communities laid out by the Community-Based Participatory Research methodology (CBPR) (Fletcher 2003). A collaborative methodological approach will be used to ensure that the research is of benefit to both the investigator and the communities involved in the research. The investigator will work closely with a local research assistant or community contact (to be appointed) to facilitate knowledge transfer. By working with a research assistant the investigator can learn more general information about the community, details about who, where and when to interview community members and guidance about the structure and appropriateness of interview questions. The research assistant will potentially gain knowledge directly from the investigator, from the interview process and through other knowledge exchange activities required by the research.

Study results will be communicated to individuals and communities in the NWT by periodic reports throughout the research period and the provision of a plain language summary of results to relevant communities and organizations.

Fieldwork will be conducted from July 21 to October 31, 2007 in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, and Tsiigehtchic.