Sahtú harvesters have increasingly been observing effects of climate change in their traditional territory. How can Sahtú communities maintain their health, well-being and ways of life when the environment is changing? Since 2008, communities in the Sahtú Region have hosted a series of five projects to explore this question, supported by Health Canada’s Program for Climate Change and Health Adaptation in Northern First Nation and Inuit Communities. All of these projects involved knowledge sharing and education, with an emphasis on learning with youth and elders. The community of Délı̨nę has begun to focus on the issue of food security. In order to enhance the benefits of the local and regional projects and learn from experiences across the North, the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gotsę́ Nákedı has partnered with Carleton University to conduct a review and impact assessment of Health Canada’s eight year Northern Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program (2008-2016).
Délı̨nę is undertaking its second round of inquiry on health and climate change this year with a focus on food security. The community has long relied on caribou harvesting for subsistence, but is faced with news that populations are declining. In partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University, the Délı̨nę Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę aims to develop a food security and climate change adaptation plan. The plan will allow for conservation of declining caribou populations while supporting continued reliance on country foods as a central component of their diet and their collective well-being for generations to come.
The five Health and Climate Change Adaptation projects in the Sahtú Region since 2008 represent a wealth of learning about the impacts of climate change on community and environmental health, and ways of addressing these impacts. In order to enhance the benefits of this work regionally, and better learn from similar projects elsewhere in the North, the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gotsę́ Nákedı partnered with Carleton University on a review and impact analysis of all the projects sponsored by Health Canada’s Northern Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program. This project will be completed in 2016.
For more information about projects supported by the Program for Climate Change and Health Adaptation in Northern First Nation and Inuit Communities, check out the Climate Telling website. For more information about Health Canada’s national efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change, click here.
An outgrowth of the series of earlier youth-centred projects in Fort Good Hope, Délı̨nę and Tulı́t'a was a regional youth initiative in partnership with the five local Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę to develop specific adaptation strategies and actions. Establishing the Sahtú Youth Network [HYPERLINK] was part of this initiative, supporting development of youth leadership in the region.
The Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gotsę́ Nákedı partnered with the Tulı́t'a Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę to involve youth as future leaders in discussions about what can be learned from past experience and research, and what adaptation strategies and actions can be adopted to protect community health from climate change-related impacts.
The project team looked at what can be learned from experiences at the annual fall hunt at Pıetł’ánejo (Caribou Flats) and the spring hunt at K'áalǫ Túé. Tulı́t’a also hosted a regional youth-elders workshop to learn how these questions might be addressed on a larger scale. To gain insights on climate change issues on a global scale, Tulít’a youths Reanna Campbell and Archie Erigaktuk attended the PowerShift BC climate change gathering in Victoria, BC on October 4-7, 2013.
The Délı̨nę Knowledge Project sponsored a program in 2009-2010 called Health Risk and Climate Change in Sahtúot’ine Stories: Envisioning Adaptions with Elders and Youth, which explored traditional and contemporary stories about safe travelling on the land, ways of surviving in changing or unpredictable ecological conditions, and ways that young Dene and elders interact to learn strategies for survival and good health on the land – through learning in the community, in the school, and on the land, and using both old ways and new technologies for sharing knowledge.
In undertaking this area of work, the Délı̨nę Knowledge Project was guided by a larger community vision for Knowledge Centre that would serve as “a gathering of new and old knowledges to benefit everyone and shape the future.” Articles about the Délı̨nę Knowledge project were published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health Research and Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health.
The health and climate change research was enhanced by a number of related activities led by the Délı̨nę Knowledge Project, including a project on language, mapping and governance funded by the Volkswagen Endangered Languages program; a capacity-building project bringing together youth, elders and scientists to understand climate change and its impacts around Great Bear Lake, funded by International Polar Year; and a project focused on aquatic ecosystems and how commercial land uses affect their vulnerability to climate change.
As a result, the scope of the program expanded, and was structured by the following subprojects involving science-traditional knowledge exchanges, mapping, radio and digital storytelling, language documentation, and on-the-land experiences:
In 2011, Délı̨nę project team members had an opportunity to participate in the Climate Change and Health Pan-Arctic Results Workshop in Ottawa bringing together people from across the North. In 2012, Délı̨nę team members presented at the International Polar Year From Knowledge to Action conference in Montreal.
The research team for this program was extensive, including a balance of community members, technical consultants, and resource people from a variety of disciplines.
Fort Good Hope’s project in partnership with Oxford University was entitled Our Land, Our Life, Our Future: Community Health, Climate Change and Community Based Adaptation Solutions toward Wellness. The project involved creating and training a Youth Video Research Crew to conduct video interviews with elders, leaders, harvesters and other youth to document experiences of climate change, health impacts and health adaptations.