Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus): aboriginal traditional knowledge summary report

Source Document: Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Summary Reports on Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population

In the summer of 2009, Environment Canada made a commitment to gather Aboriginal traditional knowledge across the range of Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (boreal caribou) to support the development of a national recovery strategy. This commitment came from the recognition that, given their intimate, life-long relationship with caribou, Aboriginal peoples possess significant knowledge about caribou biology, distribution, threats facing the species and population trends, which could support recovery planning.

Environment Canada staff in each province/territory within the boreal caribou range began the process to have Aboriginal traditional knowledge inform the national recovery strategy by contacting Aboriginal provincial and territorial organizations, Tribal Councils, and Aboriginal consultants/facilitators to determine their interest in helping to gather Aboriginal traditional knowledge. This was done by sending letters and phone calls to each organization. Each Aboriginal community within and adjacent to the range of boreal caribou was sent a letter informing them that Aboriginal traditional knowledge sharing would be taking place in their area.

As a result of contacting these groups there were three basic processes for how Aboriginal traditional knowledge was gathered with the communities that wished to participate.

  1. Local or regional Aboriginal organizations interviewed knowledge holders;
  2. Regional/local workshops coordinated by Aboriginal facilitators; or,
  3. Aboriginal traditional knowledge sharing done in partnership with other initiatives (i.e. projects funded by Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk).

Environment Canada developed a set of sample questions to be used in interviews with knowledge holders to gain information and understanding of boreal caribou related to: range boundaries and population information, habitat use, population trends, threats and traditional practices related to caribou (refer to Annex 1). It was expected that interviews/workshops with knowledge holders would follow their own course depending on the person(s) being interviewed. Knowledge holders had the choice of disclosing as much information as they were comfortable with, sharing some of their pool of knowledge learned from a lifetime on the land. However, to facilitate the use of ATK in developing the recovery strategy, some degree of consistency regarding the information collected was required. The questions were meant to help guide the person conducting the interview/workshop.

All Aboriginal contractors/communities/organizations that participated in this process, prepared summary reports based on interviews with knowledge holders. Environment
Canada developed an example table of contents to provide Aboriginal contractors with guidance on how to prepare the summary report. These summary reports were then provided to Environment Canada. Environment Canada was only to receive the ATK summary reports submitted by the Aboriginal contractors, and not the original/raw information. Each Aboriginal group holds the copyright to their respective summary report and anyone wanting to use this information will have to contact the individual Aboriginal groups for permission to use it.

Environment Canada received summary reports from all of the Aboriginal contractors/communities/organizations who participated in this process. Each summary report received was provided to the recovery strategy drafting team and reviewed in detail to highlight information that could inform the national recovery strategy. The national recovery strategy is a high-level, strategic document and therefore, local specific information detailed in the Aboriginal traditional knowledge summary reports has been summarized and may not be evident to readers of the national recovery strategy. To assist the reader, the Aboriginal traditional knowledge information has been referenced in the national recovery strategy. Furthermore, knowledge provided that would be more applicable at the action planning stage was also identified and flagged as such by the recovery strategy drafting team. The purpose of this step was to identify where and how the Aboriginal traditional knowledge could support the recovery strategy and subsequent action plans.

Each summary report received contains unique and geographically specific information that is representative of the knowledge and experiences shared by knowledge holders. Aboriginal traditional knowledge with respect to boreal caribou life history, habitat use, population status, threats facing the species, and conservation measures was used to inform the drafting of the national recovery strategy. In addition, Aboriginal knowledge holders shared a lot of detailed local knowledge about boreal caribou which may be used to support regional-level action plans.

This report is a compilation of the Aboriginal traditional knowledge summary reports that Environment Canada received across the country with no alteration or interpretation. The Aboriginal traditional knowledge present in these summary reports was gathered for the purposes of boreal caribou recovery and not for other purposes. These summary reports do not contain sensitive cultural and personal information. If further information is desired, the individual communities should be contacted as this public compilation report does not contain the original information, and is a summary of the knowledge provided.

Where Aboriginal groups/organizations did not want their information represented in this public compilation report, an acknowledgement page has been inserted to recognize the work and contributions of those knowledge holders. These summary reports were still used to inform the national recovery strategy for boreal caribou.

The development of the national boreal caribou recovery strategy is an opportunity to work together and benefit from the best available information from Aboriginal traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge to support the recovery of boreal caribou in Canada. Bringing together the two knowledge systems to help recover species at risk in Canada will take time and is a learning experience for all involved. Environment Canada appreciates the time, effort and knowledge contributed by knowledge holders, interviewers, organizers, interpreters and all others who have contributed to this work. This wealth of knowledge shared by knowledge holders across Canada has been gained from generations of time spent living with and beside the caribou. Environment Canada values the sharing of this knowledge and has used the information to inform the national recovery strategy.

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