You said that this was “the most important work of your career” and why you’re hopeful for the future. Why did it give you hope?
Caribou conservation has been a sombre story in the last 20 years, with approximately 10 herds lost across British Columbia and Alberta, or about 30% of the southern mountain caribou herds. So to get this result of tripling this herd from 38 to 115 caribou so far has been amazing.
The project is a great example of weaving together Indigenous and western science. It touches on so many important conversations happening about equity, reconciliation, treaty rights, co-management, the conjunction of Indigenous and Western science, and the importance of Indigenous-led conservation.
Why was it so important to work with Indigenous Nations on this research?
Indigenous Knowledge held by Elders and knowledge holders about caribou—known as wadziih or wah tzee in Dunne-za and atihk in Cree—was key. We were guided by this knowledge; caribou were once so abundant on the landscape they were “like bugs” said one Elder, who is quoted in our paper.
The Nations involved refused to accept the fate of the disappearance of the caribou they relied on and embarked on this ambitious recovery effort. They did the impossible, the project would not have happened without their leadership, as described in our co-authored paper which has just been published: “Indigenous-led conservation: Pathways to recovery for the nearly extirpated Klinse- Za mountain caribou”.1
The Nations see recovery as one step towards reconciliation and restoration of their treaty rights which guaranteed the Nations' ability to “pursue their usual vocations of hunting”.
I was also fortunate to work with Y2Y in my Liber Ero Fellowship on this project, a group with a large landscape vision that supported me in learning how to work with Indigenous Nations in a good way.