Indigenous Communities: Promoting Social and Ecological Sustainability in the Face of Climate Change

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Jeremy Pittman, University of Waterloo
Laura Coristine, University of Calgary
Associated Program: 


European colonization of the Americas brought profound and lasting social and ecological change for Indigenous peoples. These same communities are now experiencing, and must confront, additional impacts resulting from climate change and other human influences on Earth systems and processes. Current and expected climate-related challenges include (1) changing populations and distributions of plants and animals, which alters food, social, and ceremonial harvest; and (2) effects of extreme events including floods, droughts and storms. The cumulative effects of these stressors threaten the security of communities, potentially undermine a sense of place, and increase the fear of potentially being displaced. Issues around climate change impacts to Indigenous communities need urgent attention to secure community sustainability.

We propose a solutions-oriented workshop to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers from Canada and the United States who work with Indigenous communities on climate change issues. We will address: (1) what are the social and ecological impacts observed and expected from climate change; (2) what capacities can help Indigenous communities address these impacts; and (3) what decision-making tools can augment capacity? Specifically, we are interested in ways that Indigenous communities might leverage the power of socio-environmental synthesis and big data to ensure their social and ecological sustainability in the face of climate change.

Drawing on diverse sets of qualitative and quantitative data and lessons from researchers who have worked in a diverse set of communities, we will evaluate synergies among socio-environmental synthesis and the efforts of Indigenous communities. We will identify opportunities to develop or refine decision-making tools that foster adaptive capacity (e.g., species abundance maps, citizen science databases). Our transdisciplinary socio-environmental synthesis will provide useable and actionable knowledge to assist Indigenous communities as they tackle the ongoing and impending challenges associated with climate change.

Jean Polfus, Trent Univeristy
Steven Alexander, University of Waterloo
Kelsey Leonard, McMaster University
Robin Clark, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan
Marla Emery, US Forest Service
Melanie Goodchild, University of Waterloo
Cynthia Schmidt, NASA
Monica Granados, University of Guelph/WCS Canada
Benedict J. Colombi, University of Arizona
Karen Dunmall, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Melonee Mae Montano, GLIFWC
Colleen Strawhacker, University of Colorado Boulder
Aerin Jacob, Y2Y
Todd Kuiack, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
Richard Schuster, Carleton University
Nicholas James Reo, Dartmouth College
Rachel Green, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute/University of British Columbia
Casey C. Thornbrugh, United South and Eastern Tribes Inc.
Nancy Derby Searby, NASA
Nathan Bennett, University of British Columbia/University of Washington
Melissa Nelson, San Francisco State University
Mark Andrachuk, University of Waterloo/University of Guelph
Jeremy Kerr, University of Ottawa
Karletta Chief, University of Arizona
Nicki Sharma, Donovan & Company Barristes and Soliciters
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