Northern peoples have been seeing changes in the environment. There are questions about the health of northern ecosystems due to the effects of upstream development, climate pressures, and a desire for increased environmental monitoring. In the North West Territories we see a partnership develop between government, locals, educational, and academics called the Slave River and Delta Partnership(SRDP) to monitor the northern ecosystem and support water stewardship.
The SRDP is looking to address concerns like fish deformities and taste, altered river flows, and changing ice conditions. In the past these type of issues would have been looked at through researchers using Western science practices with little local input. This “helicopter” approach created mistrust amongst the locals who had much knowledge , but were not asked for much input. The indigenous communities know the ways of the land and water. They have a tradition of story telling using symbols and face to face learning. The SRDP is looking to be the place where Western scientific thought , meets indigenous traditional thought.
Between 2012 and 2015 the SRDP , along with the U of Saskatchewan received funding from the Canadian Water Network to look at concerns along the Slave River and Delta. Is the water safe to drink? Are the fish and wildlife safe to eat? Is the ecosystem healthy? This became the Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program. (SWEEP). Community members and researchers met to see how they could blend the traditional ecological knowledge(TEK) with scientific methods to help answer these questions, and develop a framework. The Six faces of TEK were aligned with the * phase model for conducting community based research. The project evolved and adapted… elders indicated a non written preference, so a video was developed. Locals walked the land with the researchers and shared knowledge. Locals were also trained to operate and collect data using scientific equipment deepening the bond with the two groups.
SWEEP: Whiteboard Animation video..
By bridging these two modes of learning and simultaneously studying scientific and traditional indicators of the health of the area, SWEEP was able to come to a more complete understanding of the impacts on the river and delta.
Water Drummers sing to the Slave River:
from an article in Water Canada March/April 2016. Two Eyes Seeing.