KUUK-SHIPI-SHIPU Building bridges and local capacities to track change: community-based environmental monitoring in the George River watershed, Nunavik, Canada
Canada’s North is experiencing a growing interest in community-based environmental monitoring (CBEM) as climatic and socio-environmental changes increasingly impact these remote territories, and as recognition of the value and relevance of Indigenous knowledge increases. Accordingly, the KUUK-SHIPI-SHIPU project (meaning “river” in three Indigenous languages) collaborates with the Indigenous nations who use the George River waterway, the Inuit, the Naskapi and the Innu, in order to address social-ecological issues of concern for the three communities and to study the effects of climate and socio-environmental change in the George River Basin (GRB). Climate change is a main driver of vegetation dynamics, permafrost degradation and snow and ice changes in the GRB, whereas human activities related to resource exploitation (e.g. mining in Schefferville and at Strange Lake) and long-range atmospheric transport of pollutants are main drivers for the quality of country food in the GRB (e.g. dust on berries, contaminants in edible marine and freshwater resources). Our trans-disciplinary and intercultural team is comprised of both university-affiliated and community-based, Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers. We are joining forces to: 1) evaluate how climate change is influencing the flow of water, nutrients, sediments, metals in the GRB; 2) analyse the outcomes of these climate-induced changes on the Inuit, Naskapi and Innu communities regarding country food resources and land use patterns; 3) foster and evaluate local and university researchers’ capacities to track, mitigate, and adapt to these changes through a CBEM approach. Our action-research approach involves integrating scientific data collection in the GRB into community-based science land camps, training and mapping workshops, and the interactive archiving of data with the participation of youth, Elders, hunters, local decision makers and researchers, thus enhancing local capacity and employment in the North.