First Nation, Inuit & Métis Peoples are Key to Climate Change Action

Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change

Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change

From December 1st through to December 12th, 2014, Peru hosts the 20th Conference of Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  This is the latest in a series of meetings by the UN’s decision-making body on climate action.
The event in Peru is promoting the participation of indigenous peoples and their knowledge and views about solutions and adaptation.  This is not about political correctedness.  Indigenous peoples are a primary resource of knowledge and innovation for climate change solutions and adaptation. 

We are committed to climate change action - especially Ontario climate action and action in all the jurisdictions across Canada where we work closely with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities,  In a previous post we looked at 15 Key Insights on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Change.  More recently we published a series of articles on why “Traditional Knowledge Matters” in environmental decision-making and environmental assessments in Canada.  In this post we look more specifically at traditional ecological knowledge and climate change.

In Canada, federal, provincial and territorial governments are awakening to the rich knowledge and innovation resources that can be made available through shared decision making, and shared ecosystem management of local and regional ecosystems and watersheds.  Ontario, with Premier Wynne's mandates around climate change and First Nations and Métis initaitives, is well positioned to lead Canada in Aboriginal inclusion for climate change action.

There is a lot more work to do, but here are 10 reasons Canada needs to continuing to move forward with climate change action that is inclusive of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples,

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10 Reasons First Nations, Inuit & Métis Peoples are Key to Climate Change Action

1)      Awareness and experience of climate change among First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is high – likely much higher than that of non-indigenous peoples who live in the dense cities where major political and policies decisions about climate change are made.

2)      Knowledge of how to adapt: First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have long multi-generational systems and approaches for transmission of traditional ways of making decisions to adapt to changing environments.  Traditional ecological knowledge is not just knowledge of the physical environment – at its core it is knowledge about how to make wise decisions to steward, protect and enhance the environment.

3)      Deep spatial multi-generational knowledge of ecosystems:  While the rest of the world is geographically mobile, indigenous peoples share deep spatial multi-generational knowledge of landscapes, seascapes and regional ecosystems and watersheds, and experience with appropriate and meaningful ways to transmit and share this knowledge.


4)      Species at risk knowledge: Climate change puts many vulnerable species at risk.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have deep knowledge of species crucial for livelihoods, medicinal purposes, and spiritual and cultural heritage value.  In making decisions about protecting species and their ecosystem habitats, indigenous peoples have deep knowledge of risk management approaches that offer hope for the survival of vulnerable species, and for Aboriginal community wellbeing.

5)      Monitoring climate change and its impacts.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are often at the epicentre of climate change impacts – coastal areas, islands, wetlands, drylands and locations where extreme weather events can have devastating impacts.  Community members are thus in locations where their monitoring of climate change and its impacts can yield important new knowledge and new adaptation innovations.

Matawa First Nations leaders guide their Chief Negotiator, Bob Rae, in Ring of Fire Decision-making


Matawa First Nations leaders guide their Chief Negotiator, Bob Rae, in Ring of Fire Decision-making: Photo by Laura Taylor, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

6)      Disaster preparedness and resilience.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis have multi-generational experience and knowledge of preparing for, and adapting to, major ecological change ranging from ecosystem changing human interventions such as dams, water diversions and the myriad impacts of mining, oil and gas and forestry industries.  Communities have deep knowledge of resiliency strategies and approaches to supporting community wellbeing in the face of change and threats.

7)      Ecosystem options for adaptation:  As residents of vulnerable ecosystems (sometimes the only residents of those ecosystems) First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are primary resource people and decision-makers for ecosystem based options for adaptation, including ecological restoration, forest management, co-management, ecological corridors, seed banks and gene banks, and community based natural resource management.

8)      Adaptation and risk management: First Nations, Inuit and Métis have crucial knowledge of species , ecosystems and decision-making approaches to make enormous positive contributions to social and technical innovations for adaptation and risk management,

9)      Supporting wise adapation, mitigation and sustainable development decision-making:  When approaches are inclusive, First Nations, Inuit and Métispeoples can and will make major contributions to political, social, cultural and ecological system decisions and actions to reduce vulnerability and risk and for supporting adapation, mitigation and sustainable development.

10)  Improving human climate change responses.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, through their Aboriginal rights, land and water interests, and decision-making roles across their traditional territories, can and will Influence individual and collective views of all Canadians to improve climate change responses.


Human Environment Consultant, Leah Culver of Shared Value Solutions and  Darrell Settee, Pimicikamak  knowledge holder working on traditional ecological knowledge study regardin flooding from Manitoba hydo-electric projects

What more needs to be done?  We need to all push hard for more inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge and environmental change management:

  • Inclusive decision-making – climate change mitigation, disaster preparedness, ecosystem management, resiliency strategies, adaptation strategies, etc.
  • More regional and ecosystem / major watershed agreements for shared management and shared decision-making to ensure flourishing ecosystems in the face of climate change
  • More public and private sector joint ventures with Aboriginal communities for enhancing ecosystems and watersheds, for ecological rehabilitation and reclamation, and for biodiversity enhancement
  • More tools for First Nations, Inuit and Métis to act
  • More substantial involvement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in scenario development and planning for ecosystem and watershed based management


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  • Traditional Land Use Studies (TLUS)/ Traditional Land Use and Occupancy Mapping
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  • Aboriginal and Industry Partnerships working with First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities
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