Youth-Led Adaptations for Healthy Sahtú Communities in an Uncertain Era of Climate Change
Principal Investigator: Morgan, Shauna (2)
Licence Number: 15323
Organization: Pembina Institute
Licensed Year(s): 2014 2013
Issued: Aug 15, 2013
Project Team: Deborah Simmons (Co-investigator, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board), Tee Lim (Co-investigator, Pembina Institute), Leon Andrew (Interpreter/Language Expert), Walter Bayha (Collaborator, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board), (Community Coordinator Intern)

Objective(s): To build the foundation for a support network amongst Sahtú communities, to help strengthen all of the communities’ resilience in effectively addressing the challenge of health risks associated with climate change through establishing health programs that proactively address climate change and reflect the holism of Dene stories.

Project Description: The long-term objectives of this project are:
1) to establish the foundation for health programs that proactively address climate change and reflect the holism of Dene stories; 2) to establish the foundation for more comprehensive climate change adaptation planning by Tulít’a that will be incorporated into local policy and decision-making; 3) to build relationships of mutual support between elders and youth that are rooted in strong relationships with the land; 4) to give youth the tools to make healthy choices in their lives, to develop a healthy relationship with their land and culture, and to develop the knowledge and confidence needed to face a future of unprecedented climate change; 5) to further Tulít’a’s efforts to be self-determining – both in environmental / resource management and in creating policies and strategies to promote health in the community; and, 6) to build the foundation for a support network amongst Sahtú communities, to help strengthen all of the communities’ resilience in effectively addressing the challenge of health risks associated with climate change.

The overall approach will be participatory. It will include the key considerations on appropriate collaboration with communities on climate change research, particularly: involving communities in research design and development; facilitating opportunities for local employment; and disseminating research findings.

Youth will be invited to participate in the project through advertisements at the local school, newspaper and radio outlets, and community notice boards. Approximately 5 to 15 youth will be selected for participation in the initial focus group through consultation between the Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators, Community Coordination Team, and staff at the local school. Criteria for selection include: youth interest and motivation, gender balance, academic excellence, extra-curricular involvement in community activities, and balance of involvement from different families. Youth participating in that initial focus group will be asked whether they would like to be a member of the Youth Steering Committee. Approximately 4 to 8 youth will be identified for the Youth Steering Committee based on their interest and willingness to take on specific tasks of the Committee.

At the beginning of the project, planning focus groups will be held with youth, elders/harvesters, and women in Tulít’a to get input from each of those groups on project design, timing, and collaboration with groups inside and outside the community. Non-youth participants will be invited to participate in the project through advertisements in newspaper and radio outlets, and community notice boards, and selected through consultation between the Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators, Community Coordination Team. During focus groups with the elders/harvesters, they will be encouraged to discuss and choose key “old time stories” and more recent stories that will be the guiding narratives for the project, with lessons on how to deal with environmental change and uncertainty, and how to promote optimal mental/social/cultural/physical health.

Elders and youth from several communities will engage with climate scientists and health practitioners in a cross-cultural and cross-community learning forum—a 3 day workshop to be held in Tulít’a. Just as western scientists benefit from peer review, traditional knowledge is not monolithic and community members benefit from the opportunity to hear different elders’ perspectives on the environmental and social changes from each of their vantage points and experiences. Relevant photos from the NWT archives will be used as visual cues to stimulate conversation about traditional ways of doing things. At the same time, facilitated discussions at the learning forum will create an opportunity for respectful cross-cultural dialogue between western scientists/practitioners and traditional knowledge experts, so that the youth leading the project can integrate both kinds of perspectives into their research and planning. Tulít’a youth will also benefit from a youth-to-youth exchange where they receive advice and mentoring from youth from the other communities.

The youth-led research and planning process will involve: interviews and journaling; on-the-land experiences; and the use of creative communication tools and styles (e.g. digital storytelling, radio, theatre, hip-hop) to ensure the youth take ownership over the process and the final product.

Interviews conducted in this study will be semi-structured, and may involve some open-ended questions. They will be as long or short in length as participants wish them to be, but likely 1-2 hours. Audio recordings and research notes will be taken of the responses given and conversation held throughout the duration of the interview.

Through a facilitated process, the youth will follow a modified version of the vulnerability assessment approach. They will assess the community’s adaptive capacity with a focus on the cultural resources (including traditional narratives) and historical resilience, along with a limited review of other community resources (infrastructure, technology, information/skills).

They will then identify:

• key environmental changes of concern (with a focus on unpredictable weather/travel and ice safety as well as traditional livelihoods and food security);
• related health impacts;
• ideas for adaptive actions to be taken; and
• resources or policy change required to implement those actions.

The project team considers it essential that learnings from both the process and the outcomes of this project are clearly communicated and widely available within the community, so that the project can serve as a foundation for more comprehensive climate change adaptation planning by Tulít’a that will be incorporated into local policy and decision-making. The aim is also to build a foundation for local health programs that proactively address climate change and reflect the holism of Dene stories.

The following communication / dissemination methods will be used:

• Cross-community / cross-cultural learning forum report will be distributed to the Tulita Renewable Resource Council (TRRC), Tulít’a Dene Band, and, upon request, other participants/organizations, as well as to the Fort Good Hope, Déli?ne?, and Norman Wells Renewable Resource Councils and Sahtú Renewable Resource Board.
• The Tulít’a Youth Steering Committee will make a creative presentation about the results of their adaptation planning work to the communities of Tulít’a, Fort Good Hope, Déli?ne?, and Norman Wells . The event will be widely advertised in the community (posters, radio and newsletter announcements) and invitations will be sent to the TRRC and Tulít’a Dene Band.
• A written summary of the adaptation planning work and the final project report will be distributed to the TRRC, Tulít’a Dene Band, the financial partners / funders (Health Canada, SRRB, Pembina Institute), as well as the other RRC’s.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 20, 2013 to December 31, 2013.