Examining Methods and Models for Integrative Indigenous and Western Knowledge to Inform Water Management in Canada

2014-2015

Canadian Water Network Grant

This project seeks to respond to the question: How can Indigenous methodologies and Indigenous/traditional knowledge from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis/Metis peoples in Canada be used with innovation in Western science and engineering in an integrative way to support effective water policy, management, and decision-making in Canada? The project will identify, understand, and assess how Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous methodologies have been implemented into water management projects, evaluating the relative merits, strengths, challenges and opportunities of various research approaches, techniques, and frameworks. Water-related issues (e.g. unsafe drinking water, improperly functioning wastewater and storm water systems) and water-related threats (e.g. drought, flooding, contaminants) disproportionately burden First Nations, Inuit, and Métis/Metis communities in Canada. Understanding the fundamental need to improve these persistent disparities, there has been an increase in research support and activities aimed at finding ways to more safely and effectively manage water-related resources for Indigenous peoples in Canada. However, after decades of research reliant on Western science, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of applying Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous methodologies to these challenges and, more broadly, to water management across Canada (Lavalley, 2006; McGregor, 2012; Phare, 2011; Walkem, 2007). We recognize that there have been multiple attempts to do so with positive results in other areas (Berkes, 1999; Cajete, 2000; Ermine et al., 2005; Suzuki & Knudtson, 1992) and specifically with respect to water-related challenges (Lavalley, 2006; McGregor, 2008). What we do not know, in a systematic and synthesized way, is: what worked and what did not; how were benefits perceived and actualized; what were the findings, implications, and conclusions of previous studies that have sought to implement Indigenous knowledge and methodologies; and finally, how (or were) Indigenous perspectives and methodologies integrated into the research process in ways that were culturally appropriate, and, that ultimately helped promote effective water policy, governance, and/or decision-making?