Call for an Indigenous Knowledge & Climate Change Centre of Excellence

Elders speak of the wolverine as an animal of unparalled strength and cunning for its size, a trickster with great powers of healing and transformation.  Found in remote reaches of the Northern boreal forests and subarctic and alpine tundra across the Northern Hemisphere, wolverines are animals built for the cold: they are a species threatened by climate change. Warming temperatures are eliminating spring snow cover which females use to make springtime dens to provide warmth to newborn kits and protect them from predators. A few years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the Wolverine to the endangered species list, but  - which would have made it the first species to make the U.S. endangered species list due to climate change. However, the U.S. government denied endangered status despite there being just 300 wolverines in the lower 48 states. In Canada, the Wolverine Eastern population is listed as Endangered. In Ontario, the Wolverine is listed as ThreatenedA legend of the Wolverine as the Creator is attributed to the Innu: "Long ago, Kuekuatsheu [wolverine] built a big boat like Noah’s Ark, and put all the various animal species in it. There was a great deal of rain and the land was flooded. He told the mink to dive into the water to retrieve some mud and rocks, which he mixed together to make an island. This island is the world which we presently inhabit along with all the animals." 
Guest Blog Post by Larry Sault, "Stewardship Warrior" and CEO of Anwaatin
Leonardo DiCaprio took the stage at the 2016 Oscars on February 28th to draw attention to Indigenous peoples and Climate Change.  Three days later on March 2nd, 2016, First Nation, Inuit and Métis leaders met with Prime Minister Trudeau in Vancouver to address action on climate change.  During a December 17, 2015 interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, fresh from the Paris Climate Summit said:

“Indigenous People feel the impact of climate change more than anyone else,” and that“Indigenous people will be included in the federal government’s discussions with provinces on climate change and carbon-pricing.”

Across Canada, First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples are on the frontlines of climate change, experiencing dramatic shifts, including:
  • unstable and unsafe winter iceroads
  • higher food costs and food security challenges
  • species on the move making traditional hunting, trapping, fishing and harvesting much more challenging
  • lowland flooding
  • changing ice conditions and changing permafrost conditions
  • warming forests and peatlands becoming tinder boxes for vast new fire risks
  • carbon feedback loops where where hot and dry conditions in the north warm the forests and peatlands and unleash carbon and methane that has been trapped for thousands of years
  • invasive species, including insects that threaten forests and aquatic species that threaten fisheries
  • human resource issues for fielding first-responders to deal with with a range of natural and infrastructure emergencies, from forest fires to floods to oil spills during major climatic events
  • health care issues where medical care, medical supplies and food supplies get blocked by winter ice road availability or other climatic transportation threats
  • community wellbeing and mental health issues that result from so many uncertainties that come with climate change impacts - reliable sources of food, energy, transportation, health care, etc.

We are Stewardship Warriors

In the face of climate change, Indigenous peoples in Canada have emerged as Stewardship Warriors.

  • In the north, our people are the stewards of the boreal forest and the the massive Ontario peatlands that, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, store fully one-third of the carbon sequestered in Ontario
  • Across Canada our people are the first responders to deal with the dangers of forest fires and peatlands fires, and to deal with floods and other weather disasters
  • Across Canada, we are responsible for managing the integrity of the lands and waters in our traditional territories, but we have to deal with so many new climate change challenges - for example, the invasive species and insects that find new climate conditions nice, but destroy our forests and create new sources of dead trees for forest fires

It is abundantly clear that Indigenous people in Canada are on the frontlines of climate change. But what are we as Indigenous peoples to do?

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day is calling for Ontario and the federal government to conduct a major climate change impact study for the North, one that would involve extensive consultations with community elders who have lived off the land for decades and can share their traditional ecological knowledge. “A study of this nature, if done, will have the added effect of short-circuiting the anxiety we have of being left out of this growing national discussion on climate change policy,” said Day.
I agree with Chief Day.  Further, I believe it is time to establish an Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change Centre of Excellence - IKCCCE.  
Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change Centre of Excellence
Canada and the world need Indigenous solutions to local and global climate change challenges.  
The IKCCCE would be based in a northern Canadian community, affiliated with leading Canadian and global research insitituions.  The Centre's focus would be on combatting climate change while enabling Indigenous peoples in Canada, and Indigenous peoples around the world, to harness modern and traditional knowledge assets:
  • Indigenous land, forest and water stewardship expertise,
  • clean energy and clean technology expertise,
  •  climate change adapation expertise, and
  • social enterprise expertise,
to increase resource efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and channel investment into the Indigenous climate change impact management, indigenous clean energy and clean technology investments, and Iindigenous community wellbeing.  
The IKCCCE would:
  • spotlight the intersections between climate change and treaty relationships,
  • support Indigenous communities in their territorial climate action,
  • enable communities to prepare for and engage in Cap and Trade markets with Indigenous Offsets,,
  • strengthening biodiversity and resilience, and
  • build new research, applied research and partnerships for green infrastructure, clean energy and clean technology investments.  
The IKCCCE would include the application of a wide variety of Indigenous knowledge to the challenges of climate change and adaptation - indigenous traditional ecological knowledge, iindigenous technical knowledge, indigenous economic and financial knowledge, and indigenous climate change knowledge among others.  The IKCCCE ensure that indigenous nations are at the forefront of benefiting from and sharing revenues assoicated with carbon taxes and Cap and Trade initiatives.
Canada and its provinces and territories have made important commitments to fighting climate change, including
  • Ontario shutting down the coal burning, polluting, generating stations
  • Provincial and federal investments and programs to support solar and wind projects that build Indigenous partnerships, and promising that Indigenous nations will share in natural resource revenues 
  • Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna has made some important things happen for First Nations - including getting critical "Indigenous peoples" language in the Paris Agreement - through tremendous personal effort 

But Ottawa-centric, Vancouver-centric, or Toronto-centric polices and programs that might make sense in the cities, don't always make sense for our peoples.  Tackling climate change requires an indigenous-lens; the perspective and knowledge of the people on the frontlines.  Canada needs our help to deal with climate change impacts, green energy and clean tech initiatives, and adaptation and reslience across the vast territories of land in which we are THE Stewardship Warriors.  An Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change Centre of Excellence will support our work and achievements.

About Anwaatin

Anwaatin is an Indigenous business working with Indigenous communities in linked Cap and Trade markets that include Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and California.  Anwaatin was founded by Larry Sault, former Grand Chief of the Iroquios and Allied Indians, and former Vice President, Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO) Aboriginal Services with oversight of seven regional offices, budgets, staff and a mandate of assisting First Nations across Canada in developmental stages of growth within their communities. Larry provided a Keynote Address to the Opening of the Climate Summit of the Americas, July 2015. Anwaatin means "calm weather" or "calm climate". Anwaatin focuses on:

  • Territorial climate action,
  • Readiness for emerging Cap and Trade markets,
  • Strengthening biodiversity and resilience in the face of climate change,
  • Partnerships to create Indigenous carbon offsets to sell competitively on Cap and Trade markets,
  • Low-carbon Indigenous energy generation and energy efficiency projects, including Aboriginal Community Energy Plans

Anwaatin is based on this premise:

“Two pathways – fighting climate change and revitalizing treaty relationships – are now coming together. And that’s a good thing for everybody.  When you’re battling climate change, you need warriors.  We are those warriors. Our weapons are not guns. We’re armed with wisdom and love for the natural world. We are Stewardship Warriors.”

~ Larry Sault, President and CEO, AnwaatinKeynote Address to the Opening of the Climate Summit of the Americas, July 2015


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  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge Studies & Traditional Knowledge Studies
  • Traditional Land Use Studies (TLUS)/ Traditional Land Use and Occupancy Mapping
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