Jean Marie River First Nation Climate Change Adaptation
Principal Investigator: Abiven, Samuel (3)
Licence Number: 16919
Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University
Licensed Year(s): 2021
Issued: Nov 29, 2021
Project Team: Mackenzie Bell

Objective(s): To support a climate change adaptation planning process in Jean Marie River, NWT.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5094.

The main objective of the proposed research is to support a climate change adaptation planning process in Jean Marie River. Simultaneously, it addresses the related objectives of two funded research projects: the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (ArcticNet) and Advancing Indigenous Environmental Stewardship (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). Together, pursuing these interlinked objectives will enhance the capacity of Jean Marie River First Nation (JMRFN) to protect Dene livelihoods and ways of life in the face of environmental change, while also co-generating knowledge about best practices and key hurdles for Indigenous governments seeking to assert their roles as environmental stewards and resource managers on their traditional territories.

This project has 5 specific aims (1-3 focussing on the climate change adaptation planning process for Jean Marie River while 4 and 5 pertaining to the related research questions):
1. To document key information about traditional land use and Traditional Knowledge (TK) in relation to Dene culture and identity;
2. to identify concerns related to climate change, and to environmental change more broadly, as well as their impacts on land use, Dene culture, health and well-being for JMRFN and for the Dehcho region;
3. to generate ideas and feedback about climate adaptation planning, as well as the tools necessary to monitor and respond to environmental change;
4. to draw out specific knowledge and concerns related to permafrost thaw in the Dehcho; and,
5. to link concerns about and responses to climate change with broader discussions in the community about environmental stewardship informed by Dene values and knowledge.

The project is informed by Indigenous research methodologies, using an intercultural approach to participatory action research (PAR). This requires relationship building, and respect for Indigenous worldviews and a willingness to engage JMRFN as a collaborator in knowledge production through horizontal dialogue across Western and Indigenous knowledge systems.

The project has been designed and will be carried out through close engagement with the Indigenous partners in JMRFN and also with collaboration at the regional level, with Dehcho First Nations. The project will take place over three years, and will include interviews with community members, as well as community meetings and workshops, youth and elder-focussed engagement, and on-the-land activities. Future planning, community engagement, and Covid–19 protocols in the NWT will determine the shape of subsequent research activities and will result in additions to our data collection methods, which will be the subject of future licence applications.

The aim is to conduct this phase of the research project in late November or early December of 2021, though depending on conditions, it may be necessary to do the work in January or early February. Interviews will be conducted with 12-15 individuals in the community, including a cross-section of Elders, land users, community leadership, and youth. Most interviews will be conducted in English, but in the case of some elders there may be a preference to be interviewed in the Dene language; in such cases, a translator from the community will be paid to support the interview process. Interviews will be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed thematically to produce research outputs.

The proposal has been significantly shaped by our JMRFN partners. The research team have worked closely with JMRFN’s Natural Resource Management Coordinator. Engagement and planning have also included discussions with the JMRFN Chief and Senior Administrative Officer. Since Dehcho First Nations currently has a vacancy in the role of Resource Management Coordinator, the team have been in communication with DFN’s Regional Health and Wellness Coordinator, through the development of these research plans.

Participants will receive transcripts of their interviews to have for their own records and to review and comment if they wish. Efforts will also be made to reach them with plain-language summaries of any research outputs. In cases where lack of literacy may prevent them from reading transcripts and outputs, the research team will offer to go over materials with them, relying on the support of a community-based research assistant to facilitate such communication. Meetings in the communities will be important for ensuring that that research outputs also reach a wider audience, and will be the basis for building on those outputs to design the subsequent phases of the research.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from November 29, 2021 to December 31.