Science can benefit from indigenous knowledge about land users in the fight against climate change

The monitoring and improvement of animal and plant life cycles and water quality, the transmission of traditional and spiritual practices and the combination of indigenous knowledge and Western science are the main concerns presented in a recently released report on how climate change is affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“I See My Culture Beginning to Disappear”: Anishinaabe Perspectives on the Socioecological Impacts of Climate Change and Future Research Needs was published April 7 in Facets, the official journal of the Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada.

The work took a grassroots approach to hosting workshops, starting in November 2019 with Anishinaabe First Nations people. Later, this work expanded to include voices from across Canada.

“This project has really emerged from people on the ground saying we are concerned about climate change and want to talk about it more. We want our voices to be heard in these conversations about what is happening on our lands,” said lead author Dr. Allyson Menzies.

She says there has been a lot of talk about climate change affecting the Arctic regions, but not so much about the Great Lakes region.

“But as everyone knows, climate change is happening everywhere. So that was another key factor in this study: a lack of information in the scientific literature on this area.

Menzies is originally from Manitoba and is Métis. She became interested in traditional means of knowledge transfer while doing her PhD in wildlife ecology in the Yukon.

“It was through the experience of being in the North that I started to have this dissonance in my mind about how research has been done for a long time and how scientists tend to be the loudest voice in all conversations about conservation and climate change, but there are so many people out there who know so much about what’s going on,” she said.

“It was in many conversations with local trappers and fishermen where we would start talking about something we had just discovered. [as scientists] and land users would say, “Yeah, we’ve known that forever.” I was really struck by the fact that I am learning this for the first time, and it is new in the scientific literature, but that does not mean that it is new knowledge for everyone.

The lack of cooperation between scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers led to one of the outcomes of the project. It was about figuring out how to work better together and understanding what meaningful relationships look like, and moving from just talking about climate change to building respectful relationships.

Based on the workshop conversations, project coordinators learned that the Indigenous community is eager to work with scientists to develop solutions to climate change. It is recognized that if something does not change, traditional ways of life cannot be passed on to future generations because the environment has changed so much.

“All participants understand the benefits of Western science, especially that sometimes modern tools are needed to solve modern problems and that some traditional knowledge is not applicable in all situations.

“But the desire is for Indigenous knowledge and values ​​to help guide the direction of science instead of being seen as second-rate or inferior to science.

Menzies sees a willingness among First Nations people to engage their young populations and work alongside the scientific community.

“It’s not black and white. It is not just knowledge or science. It’s having every means to understand what’s going on,” Menzies said.

“We continue to work on specific wildlife issues and work with communities to build environmental monitoring programs. A very big step forward would be to link this research to policies and real outcomes.

Nine contributors, including Dr. Jesse Popp, a member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Sciences, undertook the project and authored the “I See My Culture Beginning to Disappear” report. Click on the link below to read the work:

“I see my culture beginning to disappear”: Anishinaabe perspectives on the socio-ecological impacts of climate change and future research needs (


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