How can climate policy be more inclusive of Indigenous rights and knowledge systems, while working toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? Principles for creating ethical spaces and recognizing the Treaty and constitutionally-protected rights of Indigenous peoples are two ways to elevate Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and approaches to climate mitigation and adaptation policies.

“We Rise Together,” the 2018 report by The Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE), describes ethical space as “a venue for collaboration and advice, sharing and cross-validation (where one side validates the other).” Ethical spaces create environments where Indigenous and non-Indigenous systems of knowledge can interact, through mutual respect, kindness, and generosity, to generate an exchange of values. There is a difference between the idea of the ethical space, and the practice of it: “[w]hile agreeing to formally enter ethical space may be straightforward for most parties, actually being within that space together requires flexibility.”

Historical legacies of colonialism prevent Indigenous-led solutions for climate change from being effectively implemented. Consequently, researchers propose calls to action to facilitate Indigenous-led climate mitigation and adaptation policies in Canada; these actions include how climate policy must:

  • prioritize human relationships with land and rebalance the relationship between people and Mother Earth.
  • prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems and equally consider diverse knowledge systems.
  • be multidimensional in order to also advance decarbonization and decolonization.
  • position Indigenous peoples as leaders from diverse nations, having inherent rights to self-determination.
  • be forward-thinking, and promote the well-being of Indigenous peoples.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Lili Popper, Unsplash)

Climate change reflects a “shifting rhythm of nature.” Government-sponsored high-resolution maps, scientific studies about the impacts of global warming, and witness accounts by Indigenous elders offer evidence of changing seasons due to climate change.

A key sign of how seasons are shifting is the increase in global temperatures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth’s “combined land and ocean temperature has increased” at an average rate of 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade since 1981. The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming produced the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, to limit global warming. In 2021, global warming was a key topic for discussion at the COP26 conference where global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were highlighted.

More evidence of changing seasons is noted by shifts in plant hardiness zones. A plant hardiness zone is a specified geographic area with a certain range of annual minimum temperatures which are vital for plants to survive. Maps of plant hardiness zones in Canada and the United States are showing that the zones are creeping northward over time. This shift can have an impact on the length of the growing season, rapid adjustments to agricultural practices and to farmers’ crops, and access to food year-round. In turn, urban agriculture projects and residential gardens are also affected.

Even a slight increase in temperature has an impact on the start of each season. For example, spring thaw happens earlier and pushes the onset of the first frost. Ultimately “winters are shorter, spring is earlier, summers are longer, and fall arrives earlier.” The phenomenon of “false spring” is also witnessed in North America, more frequently in recent years than in previous decades. False spring happens when temperatures rise suddenly and cause plants and trees to bud and bloom too early, making them vulnerable to the still-present risk of frost. A report by the US-based National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA), from almost 20 years ago, had signaled that “regional thawing trends” in North America were “advancing almost one day a year since 1988,” and “[had] the potential to alter the cycle of atmospheric carbon dioxide intake and release by vegetation and soils across the region, potentially resulting in changes in Earth’s climate” and reflects current phenomena.

Changing seasons in Northern communities reveal how earlier spring thaws trigger permafrost thaw and sea ice retreat and ultimately, coastal erosion. When permafrost thaws, the ground becomes permeable and the ensuing degradation has destructive impacts on infrastructure, such as on roads and buildings, and on sustainable development efforts too. Furthermore, while engineering solutions to these problems exist, they are also costly.

Coproducing knowledge with Indigenous communities can offer crucial insights, not always shown in high-resolution maps of coastal erosion, of permafrost degradation, and of the progression of spring thaws over time. Documenting the experiences of Indigenous elders who witness climate change will also help to paint a clearer picture of the impact of changing seasons on plants and wildlife.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit – Freestocks, Unsplash)

Information from Environmental Change and Security Program (Wilson Center):

The risks posed by climate change, and in particular climate’s impact on marginalized communities, have further exposed the linkages between climate change, environmental degradation, racism, and social injustice. Often missing from conversations focused on these injustices, however, is an awareness of the agency and knowledge that Indigenous communities bring to climate response. As the global community ramps up efforts to address climate change, incorporating Indigenous knowledge into those efforts could serve to inform scientific best practices for climate resilience and boost multi-stakeholder engagement at local, regional, and national levels.

How can Indigenous knowledge help shape efforts to address climate change? What kinds of partnerships can ensure that Indigenous knowledge is incorporated into decision-making at various levels (i.e., from the local to national and international)? Join us for a discussion with leaders who are working to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into climate decision-making.

Follow the conversation on Twitter @NewSecurityBeat. Find related coverage of these issues on blog,



Lauren Herzer Risi

Director, Environmental Change and Security Program


Kat Brigham

Chair, Board of Trustees, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Sinéia do Vale

Environmental Manager & Coordinator of the Environmental Management Department, Indigenous Council of Roraima, Brazil

Dalee Sambo Dorough, PhD

Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Council


To register for the event, visit event web page.


Information source: Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center.


March 4, 2021 @ 9:00 am 11:00 am EST

This dialogue will be hosted on Thursday, March 4 at 9:00 am Pacific / 11:00 am Central / 1:00 pm Atlantic

About this Event

Join us on March 4 for the follow-up Dialogue to January’s “Connecting Spiritually with the Land and Each Other.”

The Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science Online Forum Series started 2021 off with a Dialogue centring Indigenous ways of knowing and relating to land, which carry a spiritual dimension for many Indigenous Peoples: “Connecting Spiritually with the Land and Each Other.”

Our next Dialogue, “A Conversation Across Ways of Knowing and Relating to Land,” aims to continue the conversation across ways of knowing – this time in a dialogue between and amongst Indigenous knowledge keepers and others who work within institutions organized by Western scientific knowledge systems, including the courts, government, and academia.

This dialogue will be hosted on Thursday, March 4 at 9:00 am Pacific / 11:00 am Central / 1:00 pm Atlantic (for approximately two hours).

Our next Dialogue, ‘A Conversation Across Ways of Knowing & Relating to Land’ will bring together Anishinaabe Elder Dr. Dave Courchene; Dakota Grandmother Katherine Whitecloud; the Honourable Harry Slade, Member of the Specific Claims Tribunal; the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada; and Dr. Fikret Berkes in conversation with Moderator Dr. Nancy Turner on relationships to land and with each other across ways of knowing and ways of being as Peoples living on this land.

After an initial discussion, Reconciling Ways of Knowing (RWoK) Conveners, Miles Richardson, OC; and Dr. David Suzuki will share their thoughts and connect the discussion to the ongoing conversation RWoK has been facilitating across the past several dialogues since we launched our online forum series. Moderator Dr. Nancy Turner will then turn to audience-participants for their thoughts and questions for the speakers.

Information from Eventbrite. For more information (or to register), visit event Eventbrite page –

(Image from: Reconciling Ways of Knowing Eventbrite page)

$12.20 – $56.76

About this Event


We are pleased to announce the next dialogue in our Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science Online Forum series: ‘Connecting Spiritually with the Land and Each Other.’

Join Elder Dr. Dave Courchene, Grandmother Katherine Whitecloud, Dr. Blair Stonechild in dialogue with Moderator Shaunna Morgan Siegers on our essential and spiritual connection with the land and each other.

“Connecting Spiritually with the Land and Each Other” will discuss our fundamental connection to and inseparability from the world and each other and how this understanding carries a spiritual dimension for Indigenous Peoples, to which we remain connected through our ceremonies. This is a foundational understanding present in many Indigenous ways of knowing but often missing from the dominant worldview that has shaped Canadian environmental policy.

After an initial discussion, our other Reconciling Ways of Knowing Convenors, Miles Richardson, OC; Dr. David Suzuki; and Dr. Nancy Turner will share their thoughts and insights on this discussion of relation and spiritual connection. Moderator Shaunna Morgan Siegers will then turn to our audience-participants for thoughts and questions for the speakers.

Our intention is to hold space for this discussion to take shape as guided by spiritual direction, to begin the new calendar year off in a good way, as we continue with our Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science Online Forum Series into 2021. We hope you can join us.

This is a ticketed event to cover the costs of organizing and hosting. Tickets are $10 per person. For anyone able to contribute at a higher level to support our organizing efforts, we also provide a $25 and $50 registration option and gratefully appreciate your support for our efforts to organize this ongoing critical dialogue. Thank you for your support.

Speaker Biographies:


Known to many as Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man), Dave Courchene has touched many lives through his teachings. A respected Elder and knowledge keeper of the Anishinaabe Nation, he has devoted his life to creating a healthy environment for current and future generations, carrying messages of hope and peace around the globe, and learning the knowledge and traditions of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Serving as a member of the Wisdom Keepers of the United Nations since 1992, he has acted in an advisory capacity to the UN in areas of spirituality and sustainable environmental stewardship. In his efforts to bring a message of peace and hope to the world, Elder Courchene founded Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness – a partner in the Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science project – as a place of learning, healing and sharing for all people, in 2002. He has built alliances with institutions, academics, and policymakers across the country, and is known for his ability to inspire dialogue and cross-cultural understanding. Elder Courchene’s work has been recognized with many prestigious honours, including, most recently, an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Winnipeg.



Katherine Whitecloud is a mother, grandmother, community leader and knowledge keeper from Wipazoka Wakpa Dakota Nation. Chosen at the age of 16 to represent her people, she has been a spokesperson for her Nation for over 30 years. Over this time, she has worked for her community in several roles, including as Chief and Director of Education, and with a focus on Indigenous health and wellness. She was also Chief Executive Officer of the Assembly of First Nations, Director of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and Manitoba Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Her work lies in ensuring the life and teachings articulated and envisioned by her forefathers are honoured and protected. Knowledge keeper Katherine Whitecloud is a member of the Turtle Lodge National Council of Elders and Knowledge Keepers. She is currently engaged in drawing on the knowledge of Indigenous knowledge keepers worldwide to build greater momentum for Indigenous-led Indigenous health systems across the country.



A Professor of Indigenous Studies at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan; Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Regina; and a member of the Muscowpetung First Nation, Blair Stonechild is a teacher and author. He attended Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School and Campion Collegiate, obtained his Bachelor’s degree from McGill University before obtaining a Master’s and a Doctorate degree from the University of Regina. In 1976, Dr. Stonechild became the first faculty member at First Nations University and has been Dean of Academics and Executive Director of Development. His major publications include Loyal Till Death: Indians and the North-West Rebellion (1997); The New Buffalo: Aboriginal Post-secondary Policy in Canada (2006); Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way (2012); The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality (2016) and Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spirituality (2020).



Shaunna Morgan Siegers resides in rural Manitoba. She is a member of the Crees of Waskaganish [WAA-skagan-ish] First Nation situated on the southern shores of James Bay in Eeyou Istchee [EE-you IST-chee] and has a long history of living and working with First Nations and tribes across Turtle Island. Shaunna holds a master’s degree in botany and has more than 20 years of ethnobiological experience. She is the Operations Manager for the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and has been involved in the Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science project since 2017.



Miles G. Richardson, O.C., is a citizen of the Haida Nation and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Early in his career, while serving as Administrator for the Skidegate Band Council, he directed the establishment of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program. Then, while serving as the youngest President of the Council of the Haida Nation (1984-1996), he led the drafting of the Constitution of the Haida Nation; development of the first comprehensive Haida Nation land and marine use plan, enacted under Haida law; and negotiation of the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, the first Nation-to-Nation agreement between the Haida Nation and Canada, which protected the Gwaii Haanas area of his people’s homeland, Haida Gwaii. He was a member of the BC Claims Task Force recommending negotiations to build a new relationship. He served as a delegate of the First Nations Summit Task Group (1991-1993) and was subsequently nominated by the Summit and appointed as a Commissioner to the BC Treaty Commission for two terms. He served as Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission (1998-2004).



Dr. David Suzuki is a father, grandfather, environmental activist, and an award-winning geneticist and broadcaster, known particularly for his roles in the CBC Radio show Quirks and Quarks and CBC Television’s The Nature of Things. He is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology and has received numerous awards for his work, including a UNESCO prize for science and a United Nations Environment Program medal. Along with his partner, Tara Cullis, Miles Richardson, and others, he helped co-found the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990. For his support of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, Suzuki has been honoured with eight names and formal adoption by two First Nations.



Dr. Nancy Turner is an ethnobotanist whose research integrates the fields of botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics, amongst others. She is interested in the traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in western Canada. She has worked with Indigenous Elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for over 40 years, collaborating with Indigenous communities to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments. Her interests also include the roles of plants and animals in narratives, ceremonies, language and belief systems.


(Information source: Eventbrite page for this event)

(Image source: Eventbrite page for this event)

On April 26, 2019, professional service firm Stantec received the Consulting Engineers of Ontario Award for its work developing the First Nations Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit (FN-IRT) in partnership with Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC). The award recognizes the importance and innovative nature of the FN-IRT as a tool that can used by First Nation communities to identify how their infrastructure may be impacted by climate change and develop an asset management plan.

The FN-IRT was adapted from the widely recognized Engineers Canada’s Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) protocol specifically for use by First Nations communities, many of whom are remote and isolated, and face unique risks from extreme weather, temperature, and precipitation due to climate change. The toolkit works by braiding together engineering information and Indigenous Knowledge to identify potential climate change impacts on a community’s infrastructure. Once these risks are identified, they can be taken into account in decisions regarding the maintenance, repairs, and replacement of roads, bridges, wastewater infrastructure, water treatment facilities, and more.

The FN-IRT is more streamlined than the original PIEVC protocol, making it suitable for use by small or remote First Nations with limited resources. Where First Nation communities may lack historical climate data, lndigenous Knowledge can be used to fill in gaps. Through understanding the risks of climate change to infrastructure, communities will be able to prepare for possible disasters before they happen and recover more quickly when they do occur.

The FN-IRT toolkit has been piloted in three First Nation communities: Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Moose Cree First Nation, where it was used to assess climate change impacts on water and wastewater systems, housing, and schools.  Between 2018 and 2020, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s First Nation Adapt program will be funding ten training sessions on applying the toolkit to 200 participants across Ontario.

We congratulate Stantec on their receipt of the Consulting Engineers of Ontario Award and their excellent work designing the toolkit in cooperation with OFNTSC. We look forward to learning how First Nations are applying this valuable tool in their communities.


Photo caption: Elmer Lickers from Ontario First Nations Technical Services (left) and Guy Félio from Stantec (right) receiving the Consulting Engineers of Ontario Award.


Author: OFNTSC


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