Nisga’a, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in & Gwich'in, Yukon
Year(s) Funded: 2013-2014
Topic Area: Access to Land
Contact: Dr. Nancy Mackin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Partners: Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a, Robert W. Service Secondary School (Dawson City YK), Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute and Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre Whitehorse
Title: Documentary Film of Adaptation Planning, Shelter-Building, and Food Harvesting: A Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Gwich’in, and Nisga’a Collaboration
Action: This research project asked how a documentary video can help communities adapt Elders’ knowledge (e.g. healthy seasonal harvests and moss-insulated shelters) as strategies to address climate change. This project shared with the younger generations the traditional knowledge about berry harvests and moss houses. This knowledge has helped people survive during climate change events of the past when Indigenous peoples living in permafrost regions have been most vulnerable to shortages of nutritious plant and other foods and to exposure when on the land. The project then communicated knowledge and ideas through video productions, and built capacity in the communities through a video-making workshop.
Results: This project employed video production and on-the-land teaching as two ways to keep traditional knowledge alive so that people can survive if floods, freeze-thaws, or other unexpected climate change-related events sever communities from access to purchased foods and materials.
Teaching young people to harvest country foods including berries and other plant foods, improves nutrition. These foods also contain medicine that helped people stay healthy. Knowing how to harvest sustainably, and the best time to harvest, is part of the traditional knowledge. Elders conveyed this principle to young people in all three regions. They demonstrated techniques with the young people so the lessons would remain part of long-term memory.
Learning how to build shelters with available materials makes harvesting country foods safer during times of uncertain changes in the climate and landscape. The Gwich’in moss house reconstruction was an example of a shelter that could save peoples’ lives if they were caught harvesting food in an unexpected freeze-thaw cycle. The reconstructions are lessons in construction procedures, sustainable architecture, problem solving, and the usefulness of materials harvested from near communities. In the Gwich’in workshops, students witnessed first-hand the longevity of a building made by hands from found materials.
Outputs: Documentary films were produced by students. In addition a documentary film “Shelter, Food, and Wisdom” was completed as part of this research. Finally, an article titled ‘Moss Houses in the Circumpolar North: Architectural Traditions and Innovations That Respond to Climate Change’ was published.
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