Perspectives on Indigenous knowledge governance in collaborative environmental stewardship

Date

2023-08-24

Authors

Hodgson, Jean

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Abstract

Growing from inherent rights to steward territories, the weaving of Indigenous knowledge into environmental stewardship is increasingly being acknowledged and mandated for, both in Canada and internationally. The deep settler colonial roots of environmental stewardship and resource management in Canada, as well as the violence enacted on communities within these spaces and through resource management practices, make this a contentious and deeply complicated task. Furthermore, engagement with Indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems has historically been, and continues to be, extractive, dismissive, and paternalistic, disrupting Indigenous ways of being and failing to recognize inherent rights. In tandem with environmental stewardship rights, Indigenous peoples have articulated and asserted their inherent right to govern their knowledge and data. Indigenous knowledges come from and are practiced on lands and waters and, as such, Indigenous knowledge governance and environmental stewardship are deeply interconnected. However, there are tensions between the recognition of and interest in weaving Indigenous knowledge into environmental stewardship, while adhering to Indigenous knowledge governance principles that ensure protection and prevent extraction, exploitation, or misuse. Growing from this tension, this study is situated in a collaborative Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) program on the South Coast of British Columbia where federal, provincial, and First Nations governments are partnering to envision and plan marine use in the region. Using community-based participatory research methodologies, this study was developed with First Nations partners at the First Nations Fisheries Council of British Columbia (FNFC) and asks how Indigenous knowledges may be ethically and equitably woven into the marine planning process. To do this, I hosted focus groups and interviews with individuals working for each of the MSP partners and sought to better understand perspectives on and experiences with knowledge governance in collaborative environmental stewardship work. The intention driving this study was to provide insight and potential recommendations that may support the FNFC and partners in establishing an MSP process that adhered to and was founded in Indigenous knowledge governance principles and practices. Project findings demonstrate that, rather than understanding knowledge as an object or evidence base separate from people and governance, knowledge systems must be recognized. Thus, expanding mainstream conceptualizations of knowledge governance to include support for and recognition of the systems and people that generate, practice, and hold knowledge. From this vantage, operational considerations include both technical approaches and tools, as well as transformational change required at a societal and individual level. This transformational change must be situated in decolonizing theory and grounded in everyday realities and practices.

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Keywords

Indigenous knowledge governance, Collaborative, Environmental stewardship, Marine and coastal management, Marine spatial planning, OCAP, Indigenous knowledge sovereignty, Community based participatory

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