Collaborative Science: Integrating Indigenous TEK and Natural Sciences for Sustainable Resource Management and Species at Risk

September 22, 2020 | Written BY : IMFN

Community-based stewardship of the land, conservation and restoration by the people who live there, for the people that live there.  Many of us have heard these phrases both locally and globally.  Words put into practice in over 60 Model Forests around the world, including within the Prince Albert Model Forest, located in Canada’s boreal forest.   As we look towards the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, what lessons can we learn from within local landscapes?

Caribou Trail Camera

Prince Albert Model Forest has been working with Indigenous partners to integrate their knowledge and perspectives on the research and recovery of the Woodland Caribou in Northern Saskatchewan. Collaborative science that integrates Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and natural sciences has helped direct the caribou range planning process and provided invaluable input into range plans. Through collaboration, Indigenous self-determination is facilitated throughout the research process. In addition, support for traditional knowledge transfer involving Indigenous youth on caribou is providing employment for Indigenous peoples of northern Saskatchewan in natural resource management.

This example of collaborative science is one of many that the Prince Albert Model Forest has undertaken since its inception in 1992, serving as a neutral and inclusive convening platform, where diverse stakeholders come together and innovate ways to tackle natural resource challenges.

The Stewards for the Land program demonstrates Prince Albert Model Forest’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The program’s goal is to equip Indigenous youth with the skills necessary to succeed in natural resource management careers while learning about their own cultural heritage and connecting to the land.

“Don’t underestimate your stories, and tell them proudly.” Gord Vaadeland, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Saskatchewan (CPAWS-SK) encouraged youth from First Nations communities across Saskatchewan at a session.

The program, developed collaboratively with Beardys and Okemasis Cree Nation, Mistawasis Nêhiyawak, and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Integrated Resource Management Program and Prince Albert Grand Council, uniquely adopts a holistic learning approach. It combines environmental science with teachings from Elders, and hands-on field experiences in basic skills required for natural resource management careers, such as watershed riparian assessments, fish and wildlife, forestry, conservation crime scenes investigations, firesmart, living off the land, camping, and potential career paths.

The Stewards program, including its predecessor (the Junior Resource Rangers), has supported over 400 youth from 10 First Nations communities to obtain certification in several natural resource management skills since 2006.

Stewards Participants

Prince Albert Model Forest and its partners are proud to be able to offer programs to grow the local and provincial natural resource management sector, and to be able to assist in the education of the next generation when it comes to sustainable land use management. The Prince Albert Model Forest is a member of the broader International Model Forest Network (IMFN),  a voluntary global community of practice whose members and supporters work toward the sustainable management of forest‐based landscapes and natural resources.

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