Photo credit: South Bend Voice, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: South Bend Voice, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change

This is the final week in our series on climate change, so we wanted to focus on the important work Indigenous people are doing to combat climate change, as well as the consequences of a warming climate. The United Nations recently highlighted the increased impact of climate change on Indigenous people in a report, stating, “that climate change and economic pressures are negatively impacting the traditional food gathering techniques of Indigenous communities. These food systems are said to be among the world's most sustainable, due to their efficiency, avoidance of waste and the way they adapt to the seasons.” Not only is protecting Indigenous ways of life necessary and important but adopting these principles can have a positive impact on climate change. See the image below for more details on the important impact of Indigenous food systems and how they benefit the world.

As we touched on before, climate change is also felt more strongly in the North, where Indigenous communities have lived for thousands of years. Despite this, Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous understanding of how to handle climate change and its impacts on wildlife, have historically been left out of most discussions concerning mitigation of risks, and combating the challenges we face.

This summer while wildfires raged over much of British Columbia, Indigenous fire crews and knowledge holders were frustrated that governments across the country continued to “let too much of their intergenerational knowledge fall by the wayside.” However, in some communities, Indigenous knowledge and western practices are beginning to be combined to fight fires with great success. In fact, Indigenous fire response teams have been critical in many parts of the country. This year, saw Indigenous fire response teams stopping fires, saving property, and acting as guides for other firefighters in tough terrain. (Click here to read further)

Globally, Indigenous people are working on climate change initiatives that have the potential to have a lasting impact on the current crisis we face. Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to create “a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories”.

Also in British Columbia, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation is leading an exceptional project that evaluates the impacts of climate change on their traditional territory. The current climate crisis has caused many culturally significant ice patches to melt, which in turn exposes organic artifacts to the air leading to further rapid deterioration of the ice. The project is guided by Elders, oral histories, and Traditional Knowledge, as well as community involvement.

Closer to home, Elders, and knowledge holders have known for quite some time that climate change needed to be addressed. In a 2013 report entitled, Tłı̨chǫ Knowledge of Environmental Changes: Implications for Caribou Hunting”, Elders shared their knowledge on the climate crisis and the impacts it was already having on ɂekwǫ̀ (caribou). We continue to see those impacts nearly 10 years later as ɂekwǫ̀ herds continue to decline not just here in the NWT, but across Canada. To read the full report, click the hyperlink above.

Now that we have come to the end of our series on this important issue, we encourage you to continue reading on the topic with the links below, as well as by doing your own research. We also encourage you to get involved in any way that you can to help mitigate the consequences of climate change. The climate crisis is caused by humans, but the impacts can also be changed by humans. It’s important that we do all we can not only for ourselves and the finite resources we have (clean air, water, land), but also for the wildlife that we depend on, and who also depend on us.