Indigenous Peoples have been adapting to environmental change for thousands of years. Generations of living with the land and sharing stories, experiences, and observations have culminated in great breadth and depth of local Indigenous Knowledge often referred to as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). TEK can reveal environmental changes observed during a person’s lifetime or through several generations. Many Elders in northern Ontario have expressed concern about the unprecedented rapidity and often harmful changes they have observed in the land, weather, and wildlife during their lifetimes. TEK can be braided with western science in Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall’s collaborative Two Eyed Seeing approach embraced by Up North on Climate since 2017.
Immediately before this project began, between 2016 and 2018, Up North on Climate wrote 24 Impact Assessment and Vulnerability reports for communities based on the knowledge gathered in interviews with Elders and community members. The interviews were conducted by a member of the community and all engaged in this community knowledge gathering were paid for their contribution. The reports were confidential to each community. These reports and interviews enabled understanding of the impacts, vulnerabilities and risks in the region for the current project. There was widespread identification of warmer winters, often experienced as rainfall on frozen ground causing flooding; shifting ecosystems affecting traditional locations of medicinal and food plants, as well as wildlife migration patterns; more frequent droughts; more frequent and intense rainstorms causing flooding; and more frequent wildfires during a longer fire season. Historic data from local weather stations and projections from Canadian Climate Data and Scenarios reiterated the impacts First Nations have been observing for decades. These impacts have downstream effects on First Nations’ food security, health and well-being (including cultural health), and reliable and safe infrastructure and transportation routes during both winter over ice and in summer when water levels can be very low.
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