Acting on Climate Change: Indigenous Innovations
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Logo by Stephen Gladue
The main objective of Acting on Climate Change: Indigenous Innovations is to forward cross-cultural learning on climate change mitigation and adaptation that makes meaningful progress towards Reconciliation in Canada, recognizing the leadership of Indigenous cultures with respect to sustainability as a key element of their relationship with the environment.
(1) Share Indigenous climate change and sustainability success stories in Canada with other Indigenous peoples and with Indigenous leaders.
(2) Inform the general Canadian public about Indigenous peoples’ leadership and innovation in climate and sustainability action.
(3) Use these success stories to inform policy recommendations to all other levels of government (federal, provincial/regional and municipal) to support culturally-relevant, evidence-based climate decision-making informed by Indigenous traditional knowledge.
Climate Action Youth Ambassador Program
Recognizing the importance of training the next generation of Indigenous leaders, Indigenous Youth Ambassadors were recruited and participated in a holistic training program focused on leadership, culture, jurisdiction, reconciliation and climate action. Our first trainings occurred in Western Canada in Summer 2017 and Northern Canada in Fall 2017, followed by the Eastern Canada training in Winter 2019.
Watch the video below summarizing the Western Canada training. For more information, visit the Facebook page!
In Northern Canada, the Climate Action Youth Ambassador Program joined forces with the Yukon Indigenous Community Climate Change Champion (YIC4) training event held in Whitehorse, November 27–30th, 2017. YIC4 welcomed 25 Indigenous youth from across the Yukon as well as four guest youth from NWT and Nunatsiavut. The training, hosted by the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research, focused on building a strong foundation of Indigenous and scientific knowledge about the causes and effects of and adaptation strategies for climate change. Dr. Catherine Potvin, Dene Elder Francois Paulette from the Northwest Territories, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Elders Mary Jane Jim and Chuck Hume, Kluane First Nation's Mary Jane Johnson, and Elder Richard Wilson from Haida Gwaii, were invited as Indigenous and non-Indigenous trainers.
Derrick Redies from Ross River, Yukon and Bobbi Rose from Fort McPherson, NWT, addressing participants and guests from an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Community-Based Monitoring forum as well as invited dignitaries, Minister of Community Services (as well as Minister responsible for French Language Services Directorate and the Yukon Liquor Corporation/Yukon Lottery Commission) John Streicker and Minister of Environment and Minister of Health and Social Services (as well as Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation) Pauline Frost of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Led by the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute (FNQLSDI), in collaboration with the First Nations Youth Network (FNYN), the Eastern Canada training took place in Manawan, Quebec, from February 21–24, 2019. The training gathered 35 participants from 16 different communities, including 23 Indigenous youth as well as knowledge keepers, leadership and representatives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations.
Guided by the Two-Eyed Seeing principle, this training aimed to empower Indigenous youth to lead on climate action and recognize their role as actors of change in their communities. To build the next generation of climate leaders, the FNQLSDI and the FNYN relied from the outset on a decision-making committee, led by seven youth and one elder. This youth-led committee worked several months on the development of themes and activities for the three-day training. It was therefore a unique project, as its activities were conceived, implemented and experienced by youth, for youth.
Montreal Science Centre collaboration
Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit
Developed by the Montreal Science Centre, a federal museum, the Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit is showcasing some of the Indigenous climate change initiatives from October 2017–March 2018 and again from October 2018–March 2019 in Montreal. The exhibit traveled to Fort Langely, BC, in Summer 2018 and could travel across Canada over the next five years in two formats: large scale for cities and small scale for community centres. The exhibit won Quebec's NUMIX prize for cultural production in a museum.
Climate Tactics online game
Interested in teaching kids about climate action in Canada? Help the Trickster save the polar bear by learning about Indigenous initiatives in climate change in Climate Tactics, an online game produced by the Science Centre, featuring 30 projects from our database!
Climate Change and Sustainability Initiatives
Throughout Canada, there are existing, inspiring initiatives that demonstrate the leadership and innovation of Indigenous peoples in sustainability and climate action. The green dots below represent communities with such initiatives who have agreed to be given visibility via Indigenous Innovations. Click on the map for a closer look at some of the projects and see below for a full list of initiatives. Want to learn more? Contact the communities and visit Climate Tactics for a deeper dive into all 30 projects!
Renewable Energy Projects:
- Biomass 1
- Geothermal 0
- Hydro 2
- Solar 1
- Wind 6
Example project :
Renewable Energy Projects:
- Biomass 1
- Geothermal 0
- Hydro 2
- Solar 1
- Wind 6
Example project :
Pond Inlet Water Quality Monitoring
Renewable Energy Projects
- Biomass 5
- Geothermal 2
- Hydro 14
- Solar 17
- Wind 4
Example project :
T'Sou-ke Solar Program
|Akwesasne, QC/ON||Comprehensive Community Plan||The Mohawk of Akwesasne consulted with its entire population to develop a Comprehensive Community Plan for the future. They assembled the views of young people, adults and elders so that together they could decide on climate change strategies, renewable energy projects and action plans for education and new technologies. The Plan incorporates traditional values of living in harmony with the natural world, peace, using a good mind, and strength.||Jim Ransom, jim.ransom[at]akwesasne.ca|
|Alderville First Nation, ON||Alderville Solar Farm||The Alderville Solar Farm is a project that provides the community with clean, renewable energy. In addition, since the plant is 100% owned by the members of the Alderville First Nation, it has created local jobs and generated revenues that remain in the community.||Syd Marsden, solarfarm[at]alderville.ca|
|Ekuanitshit, QC||Innu Natukuna - Innu Pharmacy||The Innu community of Ekuanitshit has a community pharmacy called Innu Natukuna. The women who work there carry out activities related to the collection, preparation and distribution of traditional medicine. Teachers show apprentices where to find and how to cultivate traditional plants. The pharmacy also uses the plants to prepare soaps, teas and shampoos.||Georgette Mestokosho, shaushette[at]hotmail.com|
|Eskasoni, NS||Truro Heights Wind Farm, Whynotts Wind Farm||The communities of Whynotts and Truro Heights would like to build a total of four wind turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power 2,700 homes in all. These projects would provide several environmental and economic development benefits for these regions of Nova Scotia.||Steve Parsons, steveparsons[at]eskasoni.ca, 902-549-5470|
|Eskasoni, Membertou, Potlotek, Wagmatcook and We'koqma'q, NS||Unama'KIDS – Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources||With the Unama'KIDS project, young people go out into the environment to clean up the nearby shore. They also learn about climate change and endangered species by listening to the stories of their elders. In turn, the young people who participated in this Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources program become "teachers" of other schoolchildren.||Lisa Young, lisa[at]uinr.ca|
|Hesquiaht First Nation, BC||Hesquiaht Place of Learning||Using local resources and volunteer labour, the people of the Hesquiaht First Nation built a community centre that also serves as a school and a post-disaster facility. Wood logs collected after a storm were used to build the structure, while solar-heated rainwater powers the geothermal heating system, and the region’s strong winds provide natural ventilation.||Richard Lucas, hesquiahtchiefcouncillor[at]gmail.com|
|Inuvik, NT||Inuvik Greenhouse||The Inuit have always relied on hunting and fishing for their subsistence. The Inuvik Community Greenhouse project now allows them to supplement their traditional diet with local vegetables, while encouraging them to build greenhouses and sustainable gardens. This activity also invites members of the community to share their knowledge with one another.||Ray Solotki, info[at]inuvikgreenhouse.com|
|Kluane First Nation, YT||Nourishing Our Future: An Adaptive Food Security Strategy to Ensure the Cultural and Physical Well-Being of the Kluane First Nation Against the Impacts of Climate Change in the Yukon (2013-2014)||Moose and caribou are becoming increasingly rare in the territory, and water levels of local lakes and rivers are dropping. With the help of their elders, the people of the Kluane First Nation have found ways to maintain their traditional food sources while complementing their diet with food that they grow themselves.||Kate Ballegooyen, environment[at]kfn.ca|
|Kugluktuk, NU||Bernard Harbour Fish Restoration Project, Kugluktuk Angoniatit Association (KAA) & Sabina Gold & Silver Corp (Sabina)||Members of the Kugluktuk community were concerned about the difficulty that Arctic char were having in reaching the lake where they spawn. The Nulahugyuk Creek, which leads to the lake, was shallow and full of rocks. Community youth helped remove obstacles from the creek to facilitate the fish’s access to the lake. The results will be observed over the next few years.||Amanda Dumond, Kugluktuk[at]kitikmeothto.ca|
|Kugluktuk, NU||Coppermine River Water Sampling, Kugluktuk Angoniatit Association (KAA) & Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada (DFO)||Kugluktuk residents have always been concerned with their drinking water source, the Coppermine River, especially because there are two diamond mines at the head of the rive. They decided to analyze the water, and to take advantage of the study to try to understand how global warming, by melting more snow, affects the river flow, landscape and wildlife.||Amanda Dumond, Kugluktuk[at]kitikmeothto.ca|
|Kugluktuk, NU||Kugluktuk Berry Monitoring Project||Would you like to go to school outdoors? The Kugluktuk Berry Monitoring Project monitors the effects of climate change on berry production. It combines education in nature, the transmission of Inuit traditional knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit), and scientific research. This initiative also aims at sparking the interest of Inuit youth in environmental science.||Sarah Desrosiers, desrosie[at]gmail.com|
|Lubicon Lake Band, AB||Piitapan Lubicon Solar||After an oil spill on its territory, the Lubicon Lake Band decided to chart a new course: they built a solar power installation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. As renewable energies do not exploit Mother Earth, they respect the traditional values of the community.||Melina Laboucan-Massimo, melina[at]davidsuzuki.org|
|Mashteuiatsh, QC||Community-Owned Mini Hydro Project of Val-Jalbert – La Société de l’énergie communautaire du Lac-Saint-Jean: Énergie Hydroélectrique Ouiatchouan (EHO) SEC||In the Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, the Piekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation built two small run-of-river (without reservoirs) hydroelectric power stations, while preserving the beauty of the nearby falls and the plant and animal habitat. The projects created nearly 500 jobs each and have even become a tourist attraction.||Maryse Garneau, maryse.garneau[at]pekglobal.com, 418 275-4262 poste 232
|Métis Nation; Fort Smith Nation; Smith's Landing First Nation; Deninu Kue First Nation; Salt River First Nation; Fort Resolution Métis Council, NT||Whiteboard animation for knowledge mobilization: a test case from the Slave River and Delta, Canada||Indigenous peoples share knowledge by telling stories. For this reason, First Nations and Métis Nations in the Slave River and Delta region of the Northwest Territories produced an animated video by an Aboriginal artist to illustrate the effects of climate change as viewed by the Elders. The video was easily accessible via the Internet.|
|Millbrook First Nation, NS||Millbrook First Nation Community Wind||The Millbrook Community Wind project offers many positive benefits to the community, including better economic growth, new jobs, greater energy independence and a cleaner environment. In addition, some of the jobs and income will remain in the community, combining local benefits with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.||James Stevens, james.stevens[at]eastlink.ca|
|Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), NU||Building Capacity to Monitor the Risk of Climate Change on Water Quality and Human Health: A Two Year Journey Expanding Community-Based Leadership in Pond Inlet||The deterioration of water quality in Pond Inlet motivated the community to give five young Inuit the opportunity to conduct research on water quality, health and climate change. The young people were able to integrate the Inuit experiential approach to training, based on observation, experience and the sharing of knowledge between generations.||Tim Anaviapik Soucie, tasoucie[at]gmail.com|
|Multiple, ON||Plenty Canada||Plenty Canada combines Indigenous knowledge with new technologies to promote environmental protection and sustainable development. This organization helps Indigenous communities by providing funding and facilitating knowledge sharing. For example, Plenty Canada has helped develop renewable energy and local food production projects, as well as the construction of energy-efficient buildings.||Larry McDermott, larry[at]plentycanada.com|
|Multiple – Gwich’in and Inuvialuit peoples, NT, YT||Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op||Caribou are a major food source for the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit people; so it important for them to understand the impact of climate change on animals and plants. Thanks to the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op, communities monitor and measure changes in the region and combine traditional knowledge with scientific tools in order to make better decisions.||Heather Ashthorn, arcticborderlands[at]gmail.com, (867)633-6770|
|National||Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources||The mission for the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) is to help Indigenous communities build capacity to address the environmental issues they face. To date, CIER has worked on more than 450 projects related to the environment. CIER is guided by the values of respect, integrity, innovation, excellence, balance and teamwork.||Shianne McKay, SMcKay[at]yourcier.org, 204-956-0660 ext. 9|
|O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, MB||Ithinto Mechisowin Program - O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation Country Foods Program||To ensure that all its members have enough to eat, the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation created a Country Foods Program. It includes a food distribution and processing centre, and workshops on survival in nature, gardening, moose and caribou hunting and fishing, and medicinal plants, so that everyone can obtain traditional foods. Elders acted as guides throughout the project.||Rene Linklater, linklaterr[at]gmail.com|
|Rolling River First Nation, MB||Health Centre Geothermal Partnership||The Rolling River First Nation has built a new, environmentally friendly health centre that includes a geothermal heating and cooling system and an energy-efficient lighting system. In addition to its ecological features, the project is also considered a success because the community was consulted at every stage of design and construction.||Elvin Hunting Hawk, elvinhuntinghawk[at]gmail.com|
|Sanikiluaq, Inukjuak, NU, QC||Arctic Eider Society||SIKU is a project of the Arctic Eider Society that brings together social media, mapping and wikipedia style tools to help Inuit communities document their observations, facilitate knowledge transfer and conduct research and education programs about sea ice ecosystems in the Arctic.||Joel Heath, info[at]arcticeider.com|
|Selkirk First Nation, YT/td>||Keeping Our Traditions for the Health and Wellbeing of Future Selkirk First Nation Generations: “What do we do at the fish camp when there are no fish?”||“What can we do at the fish camp when there are no fish?” Using this question as a starting point, the Selkirk First Nation has developed a project to help young people understand the changes that affect the environment and strengthen their connection to their traditions. The meetings also create a sense of belonging to the community so that young people can help the Nation find solutions to the challenges of climate change.||Lands and Resources Director, leej[at]selkirkfn.com|
|Six Nations - Haundensaunee People: Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga and Tuscarora First Nations, ON/td>||Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation||Solar, wind and hydroelectric projects are being developed by the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation. The Corporation ensures that its projects are consistent with its values, which include peace, respect for the natural world, cooperation, and benefit sharing with the community.||Tabitha Curley, tcurley[at]sndevcorp.ca|
|Skeetchestn Indian Band, BC||Skeetchesn Community School Geothermal||In 2004, the Skeetchestn First Nation completed the construction of a "green" school. It takes advantage of natural daylight to reduce the use of electric lighting, and it has a geothermal heating system, i.e. it uses the constant temperature of the ground to heat the building in winter and cool it in summer. Even with all these benefits, the school actually saved money!||Bryce Ross, sibprincipal[at]skeetchestn.ca, (250) 373-2421|
|T'Sou-ke First Nation, BC||Energy Conservation Program, Solar Hot Water Installations, Solar Photovoltaic Installation||We must consider the impact of our actions on the next seven generations. This traditional belief motivated the T'Sou-ke Nation to produce their own solar energy. Solar is a clean, renewable energy source that reflects the community's ancestral values. This project enables them to reduce their ecological footprint while saving on the cost of electricity.||Andrew Moore, andrew[at]tsoukenation.com|
|Taku River Tlingit First Nation, BC||XEITL Limited Partnership (Atlin Hydro)||The micro-hydro plant that provides the Atlin community with electricity aims at eliminating the use of diesel fuel and creating local sources of revenue to invest in other projects. Thanks to this micro-plant, the community has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 4500 tons per year.||Peter Kirby, corporatetlingitpeter[at]gmail.com, 250 651 2221|
|Taku River Tlingit First Nation, BC||Health Building aqua exchange lake loop space heating||The Taku River Tlingit Nation has two administrative buildings, one that was formerly heated with diesel fuel. That building was retrofitted with a heating and cooling system based on heat exchange with water in Atlin Lake. Both buildings will now be heated and cooled with the lake loop geo exchange system. With their increased control over their community, the Taku River Tlingit decided to convert the entire system to geothermal.||Peter Kirby, corporatetlingitpeter[at]gmail.com, 250 651 2221|
|Taku River Tlingit First Nation, BC||Housing retrofits||The micro-hydro plant that provides the Atlin community with electricity aims at eliminating the use of diesel fuel and creating local sources of revenue to invest in other projects. Thanks to this micro-plant, the community has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 4500 tons per year.||Peter Kirby, corporatetlingitpeter[at]gmail.com, 250 651 2221|
|Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation, MB||Keeyask Hydropower||Four Northern First Nations (Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation) have formed a partnership with Manitoba Hydro to build and own a new hydro generating station. Traditional knowledge and the Cree worldview were given equal weight with technical science when assessing the environmental impact. The Keeyask Generating Station will generate fewer GHG emissions in a century of operation than a comparable coal-fired plant produces in 100 days. For more information, see www.Keeyask.com||Brenda Froese, bfroese[at]hydro.mb.ca, 204 360-3168|
|Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, BC||Community-based Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Ty-histanis Sustainable Community||To reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation designed and built the Sustainable Community of Ty-histanis. Here, homes use geothermal heating, and several retention ponds have been built to catch the surplus water from the increasingly abundant rains.||Saya Masso, lands[at]tla-o-qui-aht.org|
|Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, BC||Canoe Creek Run of River Hydro||The Canoe Creek hydro project produces enough electricity to power 3,000 homes on Vancouver Island. The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation plan to reinvest the profits generated by the dam into social and economic development projects. They also want to use the dam to increase the number of salmon in the region’s rivers and to launch other clean energy projects.||Saya Masso, lands[at]tla-o-qui-aht.org|
|Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, BC||Tribal Parks||In 1984, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation designated Meares Island, near Tofino, a Tribal Park. There are now four declared Tribal Parks in Tla-o-qui-aht territory. This measure has resulted in sustainable development, economic and tourism practices, while protecting resources from industrial exploitation.||Terry Dorward, tribalparks[at]tla-o-qui-aht.org|
We thank the Montreal Science Centre for helping us produce these short project descriptions.
Also, check out the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) climatetelling.ca website, which provides information on Indigenous climate change projects with a health focus.
Other examples of Indigenous climate change initiatives shared with Indigenous Innovations:
Subtitles were produced under the supervision of the Montréal Science Centre as part of the Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit.
The project is steered by Norma Kassi (co-Chair), Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research and Catherine Potvin (co-Chair), McGill University, as well as Catherine Béland, First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute, Eli Enns, POLIS Project, and Tonio Sadik, Assembly of First Nations, under the auspices of the UNESCO-McGill Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability. The project coordinator is Divya Sharma, McGill University.
Documents related to project:
Letters of agreement for sharing information on communities available upon request.