The South Slave Research Centre is working in partnership with Smith’s Landing First Nation (SLFN) to conduct a community-based climate change study at a set of islands on the Slave River in an area known as the Cassette Rapids. The Cassette Islands Climate Change Project will take place throughout the summer of 2015 and will use Dene knowledge to study the impacts that climate change is having on local food security and health. The project will also bring together elders, youth and researchers in the process.
According to elders of SLFN, the Cassette Islands were an important site for harvesting many sources of foods and sustained people living in and around the community of Fitzgerald. However, in recent years many local people have noticed declining populations of plants and animals in the surrounding area, along with noticeable changes in seasonal patterns, environmental conditions, extreme weather fluctuations, and the appearance of new species.
The project will focus on documenting observations and oral histories using photos and videos to explore the extent of local climate change impacts. Elders, youth, and researchers will partake in observation and monitoring camps held on the Cassette Islands. While attending, Dene elders will teach youth how to observe the land, discuss possible explanations for patterns of change, and share some of the skills required to work and live on the land. Youth will also gain skills in environmental science monitoring, digital data collection, and videography while they prepare a short documentary about the project’s observations and accomplishments.
The Cassette Islands Climate Change Project provides a unique opportunity to engage community elders and youth in intergenerational learning on-the-land, blending Indigenous and western knowledge systems to foster reconnections to the land and culture, while also providing information about healthy, sustainable lifestyles in a changing environment. ARI will work together with SLFN to produce an assessment of local climate change impacts along with a monitoring plan, a documentary film and a newsletter about the project. The project team is also working with Carleton University to develop an interactive mapping website to share observations with the band membership. The combined resources of this project will enable SLFN to better monitor their territory and help equip the next generation with a variety of skills to maintain their land and ways of life.
The Cassette Islands Climate Change Project is funded by Health Canada, Smith’s Landing First Nation, Aurora Research Institute, the Slave River Coalition and the Government of the Northwest Territories.