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Voices of the Caribou People: a participatory videography method to document and share local knowledge from the North American human-Rangifer systems

Archana Bali, Department of Humans and Environment, School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences and Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Resilience and Adaptation Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Gary P. Kofinas, Department of Humans and Environment, School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences and Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Resilience and Adaptation Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06327-190216

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Abstract

“Voices of the Caribou People” is a participatory videography project for documenting and sharing the local knowledge of caribou-user communities about social-ecological changes. The project was conducted in partnership with indigenous people who share a long and close relationship with caribou and self-identify as the “Caribou People.” The Caribou People desired to share their knowledge, experiences, challenges, and coping strategies with other indigenous communities and with scientists and wildlife managers. Six communities in the North American Arctic participated in the project, with 99 people interviewed about the ecological, cultural, spiritual, and nutritional aspects of their relationship with caribou. The Caribou People wished to tell their stories with their own voices, without the filter of a researcher’s interpretations of their messages. The communities defined three project goals, i.e., documentation, communication, and sharing of knowledge, and we identified methodological challenges associated with these goals. Through videography, we sought to overcome these challenges and accomplish community goals, which formed the basis for our project’s evaluation. Participants reported changes and concerns ranging from impacts of oil and gas exploration, mining activities, nonlocal hunting, and high energy costs to impacts of climate-related conditions. All interviews were made available in the public domain via the Internet for sharing. In the view of the communities, videography preserved their legacy and served as a repository of traditional knowledge in changing times; visual images were seen as a powerful medium to communicate with policy makers and the public at large and were seen as a preferred informal, unstructured approach. We have (1) described the approach of the Voices of the Caribou People project as a collaborative video methodology and (2) discussed the effectiveness of this method in meeting the goals of participatory research. General insights into the process of using videography as a participatory research tool to study social-ecological systems in partnership with indigenous communities have been provided.

Key words

Caribou People; human-rangifer systems; indigenous communities; local knowledge; participatory research; traditional knowledge; videography
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087