First Nation observations and perspectives on the changing climate in Ontario's Northern Boreal: forming bridges across the disappearing "Blue-Ice" (Kah-Oh-Shah-Whah-Skoh Siig Mii-Koom)
Golden, Denise M.
Doctor of Philosophy
DisciplineNatural Resources Management
Participatory action research
MetadataShow full item record
Forests can have significant potential to mitigate climate change. Conversely, climatic changes have significant potential to alter forest environments. Forest management options may well mitigate climate change. However, management decisions have direct and long-term consequences that will affect forest-based communities. The northern boreal forest in Ontario, Canada, in the sub-Arctic above the 51st parallel, is the territorial homeland of the Cree, Ojibwe, and Ojicree Nations. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is the political representative of these Nations that are signatories to treaties 5 (Ontario’s portion) and 9. The researcher and NAN collaborated to record observations of changes in the forest environment attributed to climate change and to share and exchange information and perspectives about climate change in 2011. Data were collected from members of ten NAN First Nations whose territorial land stretches across an area of ~110 800 km2. Forty-three individuals contributed to the data. These individuals represent political leaders, Elders, land users (hunters, trappers, fishers, and gatherers), community land use planning and winter road-making staff, and other community members. The research philosophy “CREE”—C=capacity building, R=respect, E=equity, and E=empowerment—underpinned the methodology, Participatory Action Research (PAR). The benefits and lessons learned in applying PAR from the research partnership are woven into the discussions. Climate change effects are occurring on NAN First Nation territorial land and these effects are explored through the Indigenous lens of “blue-ice”. Blue-ice is a term embedded in the Indigenous languages across the fieldwork area. Its presence on the land is linked to transportation in carrying out traditional activities on the land and the delivery of modern goods and services into these First Nation communities. The disappearance of blue-ice is affecting food and energy security. A term often used in the climate change discourse is adaptation. Yet the First Nation perception of “adaptation” is different than the Western concept and we reframed the term to reflect their Indigenous worldview. In the scientific literature much has been written on boreal forests and forest carbon sequestration with respect to climate change. First Nation perspectives and knowledge about climate change in their territories is limited in the literature. Northern NAN First Nations living in the boreal forest have a unique understanding of climate change effects and need to play a significant role in the development of climate change policy for Ontario’s northern boreal forest. Bridging Western and Indigenous knowledge and perspectives about climate change is necessary to formulate the best possible solutions to address climate change.