Investigators

Academic co-principal investigators:

  • Dawn Martin-Hill, McMaster University, Paul R. MacPherson Chair in Indigenous Studies | dawnm@mcmaster.ca 
  • Christine Wekerle, associate professor and mental health team leader, McMaster University | wekerc@mcmaster.ca

Indigenous co-principal investigator:

Communities involved:

Six Nations of the Grand River, ON & Lubicon Cree Nation of Little Buffalo, AB

Project overview

The problem:

Indigenous populations in Canada are particularly vulnerable to climate change and water security issues. First Nations communities’ water supplies are in crisis over lack of access to water quality and quantity, water technology (real time data and clear standards), and skilled management systems. Inadequate infrastructure increases the health burden in these communities. Water crisis is widely experienced in Indigenous communities due to the “…ongoing struggle to have Indigenous voices heard in the decision-making processes that affect their lives, lands, and waters” (McGregor, 2012). Research, capacity building and support are needed for a range of water-related topics of governance, health and capacity development, including development of Indigenous sustainability.

The plan:

Following extensive engagement and discussions, our partner communities in Ontario and Alberta have identified three primary areas of interest: (1) bridging traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and western science (WS) in the area of accredited water management training and bilingual texts/resources to build communities’ capacity to manage future environmental challenges [training], (2) building youth mental health resilience related to water security [wellness], and (3) training youth/assisting community in water governance, rights, responses inclusive of Indigenous laws [governance]. Our project is set to address these needs, via a co-creation team consisting of leading experts in TEK and WS in all of the three components. The three teams (TEK research/training, wellness, and governance) focus on the issues of addressing stewardship over time; crafting bilingual, relevant resources; and fostering resilience.

The outcome:

The overarching aim of this project is to develop an enduring legacy of Indigenous knowledge/traditional ecological knowledge harmonization with western science through co-creation of sustainable water management pathways for community to continue applied holistic assessments of environmental and human wellness. The end users of this project will include primarily Six Nations community, youth, high school, college and university teachers, and researchers while maintaining links to Lubicon Cree and Western stakeholders. The researchers from community, secondary immersion school and undergraduate students will be formally accredited by partners from McMaster, Mohawk College; and potentially more educational institutions expressed enthusiasm and willingness to create an integrated program of delivery of mixed methods. There have been preliminary agreements to accredit existing community researchers and develop a pathway for secondary students to pursue post-secondary environmental and water management programs integrating experiential learning.