Posts

Climate change effects are significantly reducing the catch of salmon worldwide. Indigenous communities are taking various actions to protect salmon as a crucial food source, and not simply as a commercial and economic resource.

Salmon need cold water streams; however, with warming waters, a harmful effect of climate change, salmon become more prone to disease. Shifts in weather patterns can also wash away salmon spawning beds, while lower pH levels in the oceans (i.e., ocean acidification) reduces overall fish stocks.

Indigenous communities in British Columbia (BC) and Washington State are using climate change adaptation practices in order to protect salmon runs along the Skagit River, by creating spawning beds, and by planting shady trees in order to cool down the river. In addition, Indigenous communities in BC are calling for more emergency conservation measures to protect salmon along the Fraser River. Most recently, the First Nation Leadership Council declared the collapse of sockeye salmon stock, calling for the emergency closure of all sockeye salmon fisheries along the Fraser River and an end to all open-net salmon farming. These extreme actions are being taken by BC First Nations, alongside collaborative approaches to facilitate fisheries management and to ensure the conservation of Pacific wild salmon and their habitat.

Ultimately, Indigenous communities are taking adaptive, emergency, and legislative actions to protect salmon habitats from the harmful effects of climate change and to sustain a valuable food source for their communities.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

Indigenous-led watershed planning is crucial for Indigenous communities to adapt to the fast pace of climate change. A watershed is a physical area that absorbs rain and snow into underground sources of water, such as, rivers, creeks, and streams, and catches the elements in lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water that are all aboveground. Watershed planning involves the decisions that people make to determine what happens to water in an entire physical region, as well as what happens to it at the local community level.

Target 15 of the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada states: “By 2020, Aboriginal traditional knowledge is respected, promoted and, where made available by Aboriginal peoples, regularly, meaningfully and effectively informing biodiversity conservation and management decision-making.” Although Indigenous inclusion in state-driven biodiversity planning, such as planning for watersheds, is important, it is not at the heart of Indigenous-led watershed planning.

Values behind Indigenous-led watershed planning, which can include interconnectedness, self-determination, education, and resilience, among others, are what make Indigenous-led watershed planning different from dominating non-Indigenous watershed planning practices. For example, water is a sacred life-source and holds cultural significance for Indigenous peoples. As noted in the First Nations Integrated Watershed Planning guidebook, created by the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER), First Nation-led watershed planning asks different questions than non-Indigenous-led watershed planning – questions such as: “if water is alive and represents life – if we are all connected and embody an ethic of reciprocity in our decisions and daily lives – what would be the different outcomes of a watershed planning process?”

Stewardship is integral to Indigenous-led watershed planning. The National Indigenous Guardians Network (NIGN) is an Indigenous-led and Canadian federally-funded pilot project – a network of Indigenous stewards of the land, water, and ice. Inspired by a similar network of Indigenous environmental stewardship in Australia, the NGIN has engaged in watershed planning projects across Canada. Furthermore, Indigenous communities, on their own, or in partnership with universities, are creating climate adaptation plans that include watershed planning. For example, the Karuk Tribe has created its own Climate Adaptation Plan which includes practices to protect rivers and riverbeds (i.e., riparian practices). Furthermore, the Tribal Climate Tool, a partnership among Indigenous communities, including the Swinomish, and the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, provides data to help Indigenous communities make their own climate adaptation decisions, by including measurements, such as rain fall and temperature.

Indigenous-led watershed planning can strike a balance among diverse cultural values, as well as needs of the natural environment, and of Indigenous communities. Some communities may consider including economic development priorities in their watershed plans too, such as energy conservation and generation projects, while protecting Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Climate adaptation plans that are rooted in both present needs and values and future aspirations, enable Indigenous communities to adapt to environmental changes as they happen, and hold the potential to enable Indigenous people to adapt to climate change better than ever before.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

The Indigenous food sovereignty movement promotes access to healthy food, and helps to fight food insecurity, made worse by droughts, severe floods, and other adverse weather events, which are impacts of climate change.

A key goal of Indigenous food sovereignty is to reduce the dependency of Indigenous communities on processed foods that are created by the industrial food system. By bringing together small-scale food producers and farmers, and Indigenous people who fish and hunt traditionally, the Indigenous food sovereignty movement facilitates the world-wide exchange of diverse, thousands-of-years-old practices in seed saving; catching, growing, harvesting, and storing food; and raising livestock, just to name a few. According to the Indigenous Food Systems Network, Indigenous food sovereignty is grounded in four key principles:

  1. Food is sacred and sovereign, and should not be constrained by colonial laws and practices. Human beings need to learn how to appreciate their connection to the land, plants, and animals, which are also different sources of food.
  2. Indigenous food sovereignty is action-oriented and encourages the participation of individuals, families, and communities in culturally-based day-to-day harvesting activities and strategies that can be adapted for future generations.
  3. Indigenous self-determination and food sovereignty inspire Indigenous peoples to make their own decisions about: food choices, food sources, and how much food is grown and consumed.
  4. Policy reform is central to Indigenous food sovereignty and may involve reconciling colonial economies with the values of diverse Indigenous communities.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

Beginning in October of 2018, two members of the Gift Lake Métis Settlement began training as Environmental Monitors through a partnership between the Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program and the Gift Lake Métis Settlement. Gift Lake is a small Métis community located roughly 400 km northwest of Edmonton, Alberta and sits in the heart of the boreal forest. It is surrounded by rich vegetation, forests and many water bodies left behind by ancient glacial meltdown. Once the Gift Lake Environmental Guardianship Program began, we focused on the primary concerns of the people within the community. This started with one-on-one interaction with elders through interviews and surveys filled with questions relating to the similarities and changes in the environment and climate of Gift Lake over the years. Through this communication it was clear what our goals would be: educating ourselves and the community, while maintaining a balance between a scientific approach to research and a sense of community through human interaction and methodology.

An elder in the community said, “nothing connects us more to our culture than the land.” She was right. Indigenous people have had a very close tie to the environment for millennia. Now we can tie culture, science and education to protect our culture through the protection of our invaluable environment. We immediately enrolled in Environmental Education programs and soon we were out in the field daily. Our efforts were split into 6 categories: air, weather, water, vegetation, traditional plants and wildlife while making sure to continually have an active presence and relationship with the community. Weather monitoring stations were installed on the north and south ends of the community and the data is collected daily in the effort to fill a data gap that has existed in the area until now. A water monitoring project was initiated through field level testing. Our main goal for the water monitoring efforts is to note any major or alarming trends that could affect quality of the water which would affect the quality of life for all living things. From our tests, three initiatives were born: bridge building for ATV stream crossings, ongoing lake sweeps for abandoned nets and waste, and the continual monitoring of the water levels in our three largest lakes.

On top of taking a scientific initiative to learn about the land and climate, we also wanted to bring awareness to the community. We have taken the opportunity to be part of land-based learning activities at the K-9 school through facilitating workshops on topics including dendrochronology, climate change, drone flying, rabbit snaring, traditional herbs and even gun safety. A High School in High Prairie, Alberta also invited us to speak to students and introduce the prospect of being employed in the environmental field. We would speak on issues regarding climate change and relate on a more personal level including our successes, struggles and overall experiences growing up in a small Indigenous community and moving into adulthood. In the spring of 2019 two high school students were hired as trainees and included in all our environmental, climate action and community engagement activities. We did this not only to teach, but to instill the importance of the environment by introducing them to the beauty of their surroundings and the amount of gratification and confidence that comes from protecting our lifeline. The youth have taken part in dendrochronology (tree aging), bridge building, water testing, weather monitoring, wildlife monitoring, well-site reclamation, tree planting, marking traditional herb GPS waypoints, facilitating a large cultural camp with 7 other communities and numerous community engagement events. They have also been given the opportunity to take part in community-based projects such as designing and building the community two new welcome signs, starting a community garden, building a children’s park and initiating a garbage clean-up with elementary school children; allowing them to play a mentorship role as well. Since returning to school both youths have contacted us expressing how much they loved the program and how they hope to come back next summer. This is the level of interest and environmental responsibility we wish to instill within the entire community.

The struggle to succeed does weigh heavy on us at times and we understand the differences in everyone’s views about climate change and environmental protection. We have seen failures, but they are over-shadowed by successes. Our environmental and climate change programs are only in their beginning stages and programs like this are extremely new to everyone around us. We welcome the challenge and treat our roles as a major responsibility to act as champions for the land. We believe there is only one possible way to achieve that: to be role models among the people.

 

Installation of north end weather monitor

Installation of north end weather monitor

 

Building ATV crossing on a fish bearing stream

 

Community garbage clean-up

Community garbage clean-up

 

Climate change workshop during Gift Lake Culture Camp

Climate change workshop during Gift Lake Culture Camp

 

Gift Lake Culture Camp

Gift Lake Culture Camp

 

Youth trainees on left after completing the construction of a small playground

Youth trainees on left after completing the construction of a small playground

 

Youth trainees after finding a 1950 Buick Riviera while marking waypoints on historical trails

Youth trainees after finding a 1950 Buick Riviera while marking waypoints on historical trails

 

Mentorship during reclamation project on abandoned well-site

Mentorship during reclamation project on abandoned well-site

 

Youth use an increment borer to find the age of a tree

Youth use an increment borer to find the age of a tree

 

Youth expresses his love for a 150-year-old tree

Youth expresses his love for a 150-year-old tree

 

Youth pulls abandoned gill net from Utikumasis Lake during lake sweep

Youth pulls abandoned gill net from Utikumasis Lake during lake sweep

 

Pre-school session on the importance of moose. Included making birch bark callers

Pre-school session on the importance of moose. Included making birch bark callers

 

Grade 3 and 4 nature walk. Session on the role of rabbits in the environment and traditional snaring activity

Grade 3 and 4 nature walk. Session on the role of rabbits in the environment and traditional snaring activity

Grade 3 and 4 nature walk with information session

Grade 3 and 4 nature walk with information session

 

High School presentation and information session

High School presentation and information session

 

One of two signs designed and installed by Gift Lake Youth

One of two signs designed and installed by Gift Lake Youth

 

New community garden

New community garden

 

Author: Gift Lake Métis Settlement

Events

This webinar series will provide up-to-date information about research to support caribou recovery in Canada. A variety of topics will be explored from understanding the mechanisms of caribou declines to testing recovery options. While this series is currently dominated by presentations from Western Canada, presentations will continue to be added to include a national and international scope. The series will run approximately every second Tuesday.

 

(Image: Caribou Monitoring Unit)

Description (from watershedsforum.ca website):

WHAT IS WATERSHEDS 2020?

Join us October 14, 15 & 16 for a 3-day hands-on forum that brings together a diverse of community of water leaders in B.C.—including Indigenous Nations, watershed groups, local and provincial government staff, funders, and the network of practitioners and champions—to build and deepen connections, learn from one another, and explore opportunities for improved watershed decision-making.

Location will be confirmed soon, but be ready to discover a distinct region of B.C to learn from and profile regional watershed issues and initiatives.

WHY WATERSHED GOVERNANCE? WHY NOW?

From record-breaking droughts and floods to conflicts over use and rights, British Columbia’s fresh water is facing increasing threats. Addressing current and looming freshwater challenges requires new partnerships and innovative forms of collaborative governance to respond to the many social and ecological needs of our watersheds.

THE AGENDA

Watersheds 2020 will be shaped by the needs and priorities identified by the water community and offers a chance for deeper understanding of the emerging issues and the opportunities to create change.

Our core programs are starting to come together! Below is a sneak peek at the Watersheds 2020 panels and talks.

  • Water and watershed security the emerging imperative
  • Stories from on-the-ground watershed governance projects
  • Indigenous-led water initiatives
  • UNDRIP, DRIPA, and Indigenous laws
  • Water ethics and cross-cultural values
  • Sustainable funding – lessons and future potential
  • Source to estuary – law, policy, and management
  • Global to local innovators and possibilities
  • Stepping stones to watershed governance – tools and priorities to gain greater influence and strengthen collaborations
  • Global examples – lessons from elsewhere

Watersheds 2020 will also include opportunities for hands-on engagement through capacity-building workshops and field trips.

We are pleased to announce our Canadian Indigenous Mapping Workshop in Regina, Saskatchewan, from May 26-28, 2020.  The IMW in Regina will host up to 150 participants. The workshop will explore Google, Esri Canada, QGIS, mapbox, and other geospatial tools. Participants will learn how to use these tools to collect, host, visualize, share, and publish community generated data and better understand how to apply these skills to issues impacting Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities. The technical training will be co-led by The Firelight Group, Google Earth Outreach, Google’s Trainer Network, Esri Canada, Mapbox, and a global network of Indigenous mapping experts. For more information, please click here.

 

Ticket Information

#2020IMW Regina is FREE for all Indigenous Nations and Organizations. Registration is still required to reserve a spot. Instructions on how to do so will be detailed in an acceptance letter after you have gone through the application process and have been approved!

For government, academia, not-for-profit and industry, tickets can be purchased for $500. Information on how to purchase a ticket will be detailed in an acceptance letter if your organization has been approved.