"We are the land, and the land is us": Connecting Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change in the Canadian Prairies.
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Cameron, Laura Paige. "We are the land, and the land is us": Connecting Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change in the Canadian Prairies. A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of The University of Winnipeg in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Arts Indigenous Governance (MAIG). Indigenous Studies Department, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Owing to years of Indigenous lobbying, organizing, and scholarship, recent decades have seen growing engagement with Indigenous peoples and their knowledges in environmental management, policy-making, and research around climate change. In Canada, there has been increasing partnerships between researchers and Indigenous communities to collaborate on documenting impacts and responses to climate change and co-producing knowledge to inform policy. While most of this work has been undertaken in the Arctic, there has been little research documenting Indigenous perspectives on climate change in the Canadian Prairies. This thesis aims to address this gap by documenting and communicating Indigenous understandings, experiences, and responses to climate change in seven communities across the Prairies. The research process was primarily guided by and evolved from the vision of the community of Turtle Lodge - an Indigenous education centre in Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba – to convene an Indigenous-led, cross-cultural dialogue on climate solutions. Through a process of Indigenous community-based research, the project employed interviews, talking circles, participant observation, and participatory video methods that were designed to support and honour the unique epistemological considerations required when documenting Indigenous knowledge and sharing across cultures. The results illustrate that while communities across the Prairies are being impacted by cumulative effects of climate change and other colonial stressors, many are bringing forward environmental solutions that further their social well-being and self-determination. Through diverse community-led actions – such as community-owned renewable energy projects, land-based education programs, cross-cultural conversations on climate, and ceremony – communities are reconnecting with their traditional knowledges, cultures, spiritualities, and lands, and leading solutions with broader benefits for the earth and humanity. Importantly, the results argue that Indigenous knowledge must be understood not only as a source of environmental observations, but of relational philosophies and values that can inspire the cultural shift necessary to address climate change. In an era of sustainability and reconciliation discourses in Canada, it is critically important to center Indigenous perspectives and leadership in addressing climate change, and this research offers important insight into novel methods of communicating these perspectives within and beyond the academy.