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“Like the plains people losing the buffalo”: perceptions of climate change impacts, fisheries management, and adaptation actions by Indigenous peoples in coastal British Columbia, Canada

Charlotte K. Whitney, Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance; School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
Alejandro Frid, Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance; School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
Barry K. Edgar, Kitasoo/Xai'xais First Nation, Klemtu, BC, Canada
Jennifer Walkus, Wuikinuxv Resource Stewardship, Wuikinuxv Nation, Wuikinuxv, BC, Canada
Peter Siwallace, Nuxalk Stewardship Office, Nuxalk Nation, Bella Coola, BC, Canada
Iris L. Siwallace, Nuxalk Stewardship Office, Nuxalk Nation, Bella Coola, BC, Canada
Natalie C. Ban, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12027-250433

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Abstract

Rapidly developing and complex climate change impacts have profound implications for coastal communities, demanding adaptation actions for both social and ecological systems. Along the coast of British Columbia, Canada, Indigenous peoples developed a tightly coupled social-ecological system that was interrupted by the arrival of settler colonialism in the 1800s. Although both climate change adaptation and the impacts of colonization have been well studied, little research has examined how these themes interact, and the conditions that may support or prevent people’s ability to adapt to the social-ecological changes that emerge. Through a collaborative partnership with four First Nations and their umbrella organization for technical support, we examined people’s perceptions of social and ecological aspects of adaptation to climate change. Using semistructured interviews (n = 50), four key strategies emerged as critical for climate change adaptation: (1) strengthening Indigenous governance autonomy and authority, (2) promoting knowledge sharing for adaptation practices within and among communities, (3) promoting adaptive comanagement among governance scales, and (4) developing learning platforms for climate impacts and adaptive strategies. Actions typically proposed by non-Indigenous government, including marine protected areas and ecosystem-based management were not prioritized. We found diverse attitudes toward climate change impacts, indicating that people’s perceptions of adaptation strategies are strongly influenced by exposure to observable impacts, the social-ecological context in which they live, and perceptions of governance and self-determination. Our study suggests that supporting Indigenous peoples’ ability to adapt to climate change will require transforming the current governance model into one that acknowledges Indigenous social, cultural, and food needs and how these relate to marine resources and territorial management rights.

Key words

adaptation; climate change; fisheries; food security; governance; Indigenous stewardship; transformation

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087