Ecology and Society Ecology and Society
E&S Home > Vol. 21, Iss. 2 > Art. 18 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Łeghágots'enetę (learning together): the importance of indigenous perspectives in the identification of biological variation

Jean L. Polfus, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Micheline Manseau, Office of the Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Parks Canada, Gatineau, Québec, Canada; Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Deborah Simmons, Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę Gots'ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Tulı́t'a, Northwest Territories, Canada; Aboriginal Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Michael Neyelle, Délı̨nę Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resource Council), Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories, Canada; Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę Gots'ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Tulı́t'a, Northwest Territories, Canada
Walter Bayha, Délı̨nę Land Corporation, Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories, Canada
Frederick Andrew, Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę Gots'ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Tulı́t'a, Northwest Territories, Canada
Leon Andrew, Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę Gots'ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), Tulı́t'a, Northwest Territories, Canada
Cornelya F. C. Klütsch, Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Keren Rice, Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Paul Wilson, Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08284-210218

Full Text: HTML   
Download Citation


Abstract

Using multiple knowledge sources to interpret patterns of biodiversity can generate the comprehensive species characterizations that are required for effective conservation strategies. Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) display substantial intraspecific variation across their distribution and in the Sahtú Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, three caribou types, each with a different conservation status, co-occur. Caribou are essential to the economies, culture, and livelihoods of northern indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities across the north are insisting that caribou research be community-driven and collaborative. In response to questions that arose through dialogue with five Sahtú Dene and Métis communities, we jointly developed a research approach to understand caribou differentiation and population structure. Our goal was to examine caribou variation through analysis of population genetics and an exploration of the relationships Dene and Métis people establish with animals within bioculturally diverse systems. To cultivate a research environment that supported łeghágots'enetę “learning together” we collaborated with Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Councils), elders, and an advisory group. Dene knowledge and categorization systems include a comprehensive understanding of the origin, behaviors, dynamic interactions, and spatial structure of caribou. Dene people classify tǫdzı “boreal woodland caribou” based on unique behaviors, habitat preferences, and morphology that differ from ɂekwę́ “barren-ground” or shúhta ɂepę́ “mountain” caribou. Similarly, genetic analysis of material (microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA) from caribou fecal pellets, collected in collaboration with community members during the winter, provided additional evidence for population differentiation that corresponded to the caribou types recognized by Dene people and produced insights into the evolutionary histories that contribute to the various forms. We developed culturally respectful and relevant descriptions of caribou variation through partnerships that respect the lives and experiences of people that depend on the land. By prioritizing mutual learning, researchers can broaden their understanding of biodiversity and establish a common language for collaboration.

Key words

aboriginal; biocultural diversity; biodiversity; caribou; collaborative research; ecology; First Nation; genetic variation; indigenous communities; population genetics; population structure; Rangifer tarandus; resource management; social-ecological systems; traditional knowledge

Copyright © 2016 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.

Top
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087