Indigenous Knowledge and Community-Based Monitoring

The “One Voice” method: Connecting Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit with western science to monitor Northern Canada’s freshwater aquatic environment

R.A. Nesbitt, N.J. Hutchinson, H.E. Klein, B.L. Parlee, J. Hart, J. Tulugak, and L. Manzo

Scientific methods used to assess environmental changes in the Arctic are well established. However, researchers face vast, inaccessible expanses with a harsh climate. This presents logistic and financial challenges few other places in Canada experience. Community based monitoring may improve our ability to track changes in Canada’s North. A major barrier is that there is no set methodology to match observations made by Inuit while on the land with many scientific indicators.

This project explored links between The Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) and western science knowledge systems through a series of semi-directed interviews with knowledge holders led by a “curious scientist.” The focus was on specific water quality indicators. The interviews asked targeted questions to identify where these indicators and Inuit observations meet. Three interviews were held for each group of participants. The last set were held at sites known to have consistently high- or low-quality drinking water.

Water at the interview sites was sampled while the last interview was conducted. This helped to identify a set of substances found in the water to use as common indicators that describe the aquatic environment. These common indicators connect the two knowledge systems. They can be used to establish baseline conditions and measure the impact of stressors. Their use may help refine aquatic monitoring programs to better address community concerns. The result will be a more holistic understanding of the aquatic environment using both knowledge systems.

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