Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group

2007 Annual Meeting, Association of American Geographers
April 17-21 2007, San Francisco, CA

3236 Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Strategies in the Far North
Thursday, 4/19/07, from 10:00 AM - 11:40 AM


Sponsorship(s):
Cryosphere Specialty Group
Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group
Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group

Organizer & Chair:
Sarah F. Trainor - University of Alaska - Fairbanks

Abstract Title:
Variability, change, and continuity: insights from Cree cultural ecology

Author(s):
Claude Peloquin* - Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba
Fikret Berkes - Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba

Abstract:
This study explores the interplay between variability, change, and continuity in a subsistence hunt in northern Canada, focusing on the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) hunt of the Cree people of Wemindji in James Bay, Quebec. The work contributes to the understanding of social-ecological processes in sub-arctic environments that are undergoing biophysical as well as social-cultural changeat multiple scales. We interviewed Cree hunters, and accompanied them to their hunting territories, learning about Cree ecological knowledge and environmental management practices. These inquiries focused on how Cree hunters read and adapt to the environmental variability characteristic of sub-arctic ecosystems. Small-scale ecological variability and unpredictability, such as weather, goose population dynamics and migration patterns, are mediated by local management strategies in which goose-hunting areas may shift in space and time. These strategies traditionally involve rotation of hunting sites, minimizing of some disturbance, and minor physical modifications (bush clearing etc.) to the landscape. Whereas these strategies are still practiced, fine-tuning local arrangements to local environmental conditions, they are (to some extent) overwhelmed by changes occurring at larger scales. Some of these external drivers are related to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances, others are related to social-cultural changes that influence resource-use patterns. We analyze some key ecological variables of this system and discuss how they interact, providing a preliminary model of how change occurs in a dynamic but resilient setting. The study explores linkages between drivers at different levels, linkages in social and ecological processes, and the nature of continuity in a changing world.

Keywords:

James Bay Cree, Canada Goose, waterfowl, subsistence harvest, social-ecological resilience, change

Abstract Title:
Responding to environmental change: Assessing vulnerability and adaptive capacity through northern research partnerships

Author(s):
Sonia Wesche, PhD (ABD)* - Wilfrid Laurier University
Derek Armitage, PhD - Wilfrid Laurier University

Abstract:
Based on ongoing interdisciplinary research in Fort Resolution, NWT, this paper examines the human dimensions of social-ecological change, vulnerability and adaptive capacity. Residents are experiencing a range of climatic and hydrological changes, and concurrent socio-cultural shifts towards modernization and Treaty implementation. Using a series of qualitative methods including Traditional Knowledge interviews, focus groups, a household survey, scenario-building, and field visits, we seek to better understand the effects of change on local livelihoods, and to determine where capacity-building efforts may be focused to encourage proactive responses. We also draw attention to the relationship among adaptive capacity and the features of social organization that facilitate collaboration for mutual benefit, such as networks, norms and social trust (i.e., social capital). Results show that relationships among past environmental change, livelihood impacts, and human adaptations are both cumulative and non-linear. Past adaptations have generally been reactive and undertaken on an individual basis; however increasing rates of change may require community-level response. While survey data indicates that contemporary socio-cultural change has disrupted traditional social bonds, a form of latent cohesion based on kinship ties and shared history may offer a vehicle to facilitate collective action. Important foci for capacity-building include local institutional development, improving community-level education, and increasing access to financial and technical resources. This research offers a potentially useful approach that can be adapted to other communities in the North (and elsewhere) confronting complex issues of environmental and socio-economic change.

Keywords:

environmental change, vulnerability, adaptive capacity, resilience, resource management, traditional knowledge, north-Canada

Abstract Title:
Mapping Social-Ecological Vulnerability: Ecosystem Services, Human Use and Disturbance

Author(s):
Colin M Beier, PhD Candidate* - University of Alaska Fairbanks
Trista Patterson, PhD - USDA PNW Forestry Sciences Lab, Juneau AK

Abstract:
This article presents a conceptual model of social-ecological dynamics that addresses the feedbacks of anthropogenic disturbance on the flow of ecological goods and services from ecosystems to society. We applied this model in developing an analytical GIS framework to identify areas of emergent vulnerability at a landscape scale. Because the nexus of human use, disturbance, and productivity can indicate more intense couplings between human and ecological systems, we suggest that spatial identification of where these features coincide may also be areas where unintended or unforeseen consequences of human activity are more likely. Since social-ecological processes are different in every region, our approach emphasizes the use of place-based and locally relevant indicators of these factors. In the coastal rainforests of southeastern Alaska, there is concern about the legacy of commercial logging on fish and wildlife species of local subsistence and commercial importance. Some of these impacts have been observed in the short-term while many of the ecological feedbacks involve slower variables related to forest regeneration. Our approach spatially couples social and ecological variables to determine where high ecological provision, high human use and high human disturbance coincide on the SE Alaska landscape. We describe some of the systems dynamics linking these three factors and provide examples of how time lags and feedbacks among them heighten the possibility of sub-optimal decision-making. We argue that these areas represent loci of vulnerability in the social-ecological system, given the dependence of local residents on fish and wildlife resources for subsistence and commercial uses.

Keywords:

Alaska, Tongass National Forest, natural capital, subsistence, logging, GIS

Abstract Title:
Cultural geographies of sea ice use around Baffin Island, Nunavut

Author(s):
Gita J. Laidler* - University of Toronto

Abstract:
Sea ice, covering Canada's northern oceans for six to eight months of each year, has figured prominently in natural science investigations. This ocean ice cover also plays an integral role in the daily life of Inuit communities. However, there is a general lack of interaction between scientists and Inuit to learn from each other about this dynamic and influential component of the marine environment. My doctoral research aimed to learn about Inuit relationships with, and expertise on, the sea ice environment by working collaboratively with three communities around Baffin Island (i.e. Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset, and Igloolik, Nunavut). Four (4) field research trips were undertaken in various stages of sea ice freezing and decay, between 2004 and 2005. Various participatory methods were incorporated, such as semi-directed interviews (including participatory mapping) (84), focus groups (4), and experiential sea ice trips (14). This presentation will outline a subset of the overall findings, with specific emphasis on the uses of sea ice around these Inuit communities. Therefore, cultural geographies of sea ice will be discussed within a regionally comparative context, regarding: i) dangers associated with sea ice travel; ii) means of evaluating ice safety; and, iii) sea ice conditions employed for marine mammal hunting. Improving our understanding of local sea ice use can aid in evaluating the potential implications of sea ice change within a northern community context. It also highlights several key areas of interest that may provide a common focus for both scientists and community members to begin working together more effectively.

Keywords:

sea ice, Inuit knowledge, Nunavut, hunting, travel

Abstract Title:
Global Climate Change & Implications for Native American Communities of the Southwest

Author(s):
Casey Thornbrugh, MA, PhD student - University of Arizona

Abstract:
Arctic Indigenous communities are experiencing impacts of climate change on cultural resources and traditional subsistence economies. Research projects in Arctic communities using applied traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), and quantitative methods have placed Arctic communities in the forefront in developing culturally relevant mitigation strategies. Scant research exists on the current and anticipated effects of climate change in American Indian/First Nation communities over the U.S. lower 48 states and southern Canada. A meta-analysis was done to examine the current and anticipated impacts of 21st Century climate change in American Indian communities focusing on the Arctic, the U.S. Southwest, northern Great Plains, and the Atlantic Eastern Seaboard. Peer reviewed articles, American Indian media sources, interviews, international agreements, and legal documents were used to assess the current and anticipated impacts of climate change, the mitigation strategies to climate change, and the development of renewable energy sources across Indian Country. In the Southwest and northern Great Plains severe droughts affecting agriculture, water availability, and cultural resources have initiated the development of drought response plans and the development of wind and solar energy in communities. On the Atlantic Eastern Seaboard development, urbanization, and pollution have, historically been the highest stressors on cultural resources. However, anticipated increases in sea level and concern for existing culturally important plant and animal species have generated interest in developing climate change mitigation. Disseminating information on climate change projections, applying traditional ecological knowledge, and planning for climate change will be essential actions to ensure cultural resources for future generations across Indian Country.

Keywords:

Climate change, Indigenous peoples, American Indian, Indian Country

 

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