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Respect for Grizzly Bears: an Aboriginal Approach for Co-existence and Resilience

Douglas A Clark, Wilfrid Laurier University; University of Alberta; Yukon College; Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
D. Scott Slocombe, Wilfrid Laurier University

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Abstract

Aboriginal peoples’ respect for grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) is widely acknowledged, but rarely explored, in wildlife management discourse in northern Canada. Practices of respect expressed toward bears were observed and grouped into four categories: terminology, stories, reciprocity, and ritual. In the southwest Yukon, practices in all four categories form a coherent qualitative resource management system that may enhance the resilience of the bear-human system as a whole. This system also demonstrates the possibility of a previously unrecognized human role in maintaining productive riparian ecosystems and salmon runs, potentially providing a range of valued social-ecological outcomes. Practices of respect hold promise for new strategies to manage bear-human interactions, but such successful systems may be irreducibly small scale and place based.

Key words

bear ceremonialism; Champagne and Aishihik First Nations; Inuit; Inuvialuit; Northwest Territories; Nunavut; resilience; salmon; social-ecological system; Southern Tutchone; traditional ecological knowledge; Ursus arctos; Yukon
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087