Ɂełexé Eghálets’eda (Learning Together): Advancing sustainable conservation strategies through cross-cultural collaboration
In the Canadian north, biodiversity does not exist in isolation, but rather is intrinsically and evolutionarily linked to cultural diversity and indigenous knowledge systems. Interdisciplinary approaches are necessary to develop research, identify biocultural diversity, and produce conservation strategies that acknowledge the interdependent relationships between people and nature in complex social-ecological systems. Conservation research that promotes co-learning opportunities between local communities and researchers represents a significant shift in the orientation of research toward collaborative practices that share decision-making processes and ownership of research outcomes. For example, in the Sahtú Region of the Northwest Territories, we developed a community-based interdisciplinary research project with Sahtú Dene and Métis communities to understand the diverse ways that patterns of caribou variation are recognized, organized, and interpreted. Our goal was to examine caribou populations through analysis of genetic processes and the relationships that people establish with animals within complex evolutionary systems. Dene language and categorization systems deepened our understanding of caribou variation and the robust relationships that people maintain with the species. Genetic analysis shed light on caribou spatial genetic structure, ancient lineages and evolutionary processes that may generate and maintain essential variation. Through the process of ɂełexé eghálets’eda (learning together) we developed comprehensive descriptions of caribou populations that reflect biodiversity and promote culturally appropriate solutions to difficult management problems. By acknowledging the unique contributions of multiple knowledge systems we were able to increase the legitimacy and salience of potential conservation outcomes among community members and conservation practitioners.
Frederick Andrew Bio
Community Researcher, Special Advisor to the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board)
Tulı́t'a, Northwest Territories, Canada
Frederick Andrew is Shúhtagot'ı̨nę and was born and raised in Tulı́t'a in the Sahtú region of the Northwest Territories. His family has traditionally traveled throughout the Mackenzie Mountains and as a child he was taught traditional skills by his parents and grandparents on the land before being sent to residential school in Inuvik during the 1960s. Frederick was formerly an active member and president of the Tulı́t'a Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Council) and has provided expertise to numerous traditional knowledge studies, species at risk projects, regional research priorities, and special projects related to mapping and wildlife management. He also served as a member of the Nááts'ı̨hch'oh National Park Reserve Management Board and currently acts as a special advisor to the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board). Frederick is an active hunter in the Tulı́t'a area and has extensive firsthand knowledge of the land and wildlife.
Jean Polfus Bio
Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow, Trent University
Jean Polfus is a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Manitoba conducting genetic and traditional knowledge studies on caribou populations in partnership with the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board) and five Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Councils) in the Sahtú Region, Northwest Territories, Canada. Her collaborative research project built a comprehensive understanding of the identities and relationships among caribou populations and Dene people in order to inform and prioritize management efforts. She is committed to an approach to conservation that respects the lives and experiences of people that depend on natural resources for their livelihood, facilitates cooperative long-term problem solving, improves the performance of ongoing research, and affirms the value of community caribou stewardship.