On yet another unusually warm subarctic day last August, members of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in the Northwest Territories of Canada held a fire-feeding ceremony, drummed, raised their eagle-emblazoned flag, and prepared a celebratory feast for themselves and a group of scientists 30 miles south of where they live in Fort Simpson.
By the close of festivities, Laurier University’s 23-year-old Scotty Creek Research Station, which is monitoring the varied impacts of climate change and permafrost thaw, had become the first Indigenous-led research station in Canada.
The event marked another milestone in a remarkable effort by Indigenous people across Northern Canada to address the impacts of climate change, which is contributing to the burning of carbon-rich peatlands, precipitous declines in caribou populations, increased levels of mercury in fish, and the spread of novel pathogens and invasive species.
“Climate change is not going to wait for us to find a way of adapting and mitigating,” said Gladys Norwegian before I visited Scotty Creek last summer. Norwegian was once grand chief of the Dehcho Dene, which includes the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation of Fort Simpson, as well as several other Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie Valley.
“It’s happening now,” Norwegian said. “We need to work as leaders and partners with scientists to see what is coming. We also need to get our own act together.”
Not only are First Nations and the Inuit working closely with Western scientists to inventory and study their lands, but they have also made striking progress setting aside vast tracts of land and ocean, a decades-long push that has recently gained momentum and now amounts to tens of millions of acres. Conservationists say the scale of these efforts is unprecedented. [Continue reading…]