“Knowledge is the Key to Adaptation”

FLEdGE researcher and community partners talk about Indigenous food systems research on Handpicked podcast series.

March 2020

If you ask Andrew Spring, FLEdGE researcher and associate director of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, about the value of community-driven and collaborative research with the Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa, NWT, he’ll tell you that “the relationships that we’ve built together are the most important part of this work.” For Andrew, “working with the community has been a wonderful experience where we support each other and make sure that the products of our research are tangible and visible in the community.” Community gardens, an online tool to track changes to the landscape, and a community-run recycling program—the only program of its kind in the Northwest Territories—are just a few examples of the kind of work Andrew is talking about.

A new two-part episode of Handpicked: Stories from the Field—a podcast series produced by the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems—tells the story of community-driven food systems research in Kakisa, a tiny community outside of Hay River in the Northwest Territories. The episodes feature Andrew’s conversation with long-time research partners, Chief Lloyd Chicot and Melaine Simba, members of the Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation. The episodes tell a story about how climate change is impacting traditional food systems in the North and will help listeners understand how Indigenous leaders and their communities are adapting to changing landscapes. Listeners will also learn about how participatory action research led by the community can offer new ways to transfer traditional knowledge to the next generation and help to help the community envision and build the food system that they want.

As part of the research taking place in Kakisa, students associated with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems spend time over the summer living in the community and often support On-The-Land Camps where local youth learn traditional skills and knowledge from community Elders. Chief Chicot sees the relationship between LCSFS students and the community as a reciprocal one in which the community plays a significant role in student learning: “If those kids can learn from the students and the students can learn from us and the kids,” says Chief Chicot, “then you know we’ve reached one other person that can look at the whole climate change and land thing differently. So that’s the goal.”

Another project highlighted in the 2-part episode of Handpicked is the Ka’a’gee Tu Atlas Project, a tool developed by the community and student researchers that uses ArcGIS technology to combine traditional and scientific knowledge so that community members can better adapt to changing conditions on the land. Melaine Simba explains that the Ka’a’gee Tu Atlas Project is an important tool because it “not only captures old stories and traditional names, but it gives insight for the future and how it changes and what happens to the land.” Community members can input information into the Atlas to document changes to the landscape. For Melaine, this information is critical for community and harvester safety “because right now you can’t predict how the weather can turn out. Things are happening fast and elders too can’t even tell us what’s going to happen with the weather.”

What becomes apparent in listening to the Andrew’s conversation with Melaine and Chief Lloyd is just how critical trust and long-term relationships are to community-led research with Indigenous communities in the NWT. “We really like to take opportunities like this podcast to share what is possible when you have these long-standing partnerships,” says Andrew. “Because we have this incredible relationship with Melanie and Chief Chicot and others in Kakisa, we’ve been able to do so much amazing work in the community. It’s really important to share that with other people because we really want to leave a legacy that demonstrates how these partnerships can work.”

To hear more about the community-led research in Kakisa and for teaching resources and our show notes, visit Handpicked: Stories from the Field.

Listen here:

Episode 3: ”Take Care Of The Land And The Land Will Take Care Of You”: Discussing Climate Change With Members Of The Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation In Kakisa, Northwest Territories

Episode 4: ”We Know How To Survive On The Land”: Climate Change Adaptation, Food Systems And Life In Kakisa, Northwest Territories

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