Working Together to Take Care of the Land: Building Bridges with Traditional Knowledge in the Gwich’in Settlement Area

Wynet Smith

Abstract


Nits’òo nan k’atr’ahnahtyaa ts’àt nits’òo nan kak gwitr’it
t’agwahàa’aa geenjit tr’iilee tr’igwähtsii gwizhit yeenoo
dài’ nits’òo tr’igwiindài’ t’atr’ahdahch’aa geenjit
ganiinji’tr’adhat. Gwitr’it geenjit tr’iilee tr’igwahtsii
dài’ juk drin nits’òo gwiidandaii ts’àt yeenoo dài’ nits’òo
tr’igwiindài’ gwit’atrahdahch’aa iisrits’àt geenjit gòo’aih.
Canada gwizhit nan sridatr’igwijiinlik aii gwizhit juudin nan
tr’ooheendal, nits’òo nan t’atrahdahch’aa ts’àt juudin nan
gwits’àt k’agwahaadhat jii sridatr’igwijiinlik gwi’dinehtl’èe’
gwizhit geenjit gòo’aih. Gwich’in kaiik’it gwa’àn nits’òo
nan k’atr’ahnyahtyaa geenjit tr’iilee tr’ałtsaii gwits’àt duuleh
gwiinleii t’atràhdahch’aa. Jii dinehtł’eh gwizhit nits’òo
nan k’atr’ahnyahtyaa ts’àt yeenoo dài’ nits’òo tr’igwiindài’
t’atr’ahdahch’aa giiniidhan geenjit gwidinithitł’oh. Gwiinzii
gwitr’it gwìltsaii, gwiinzii gwitr’it gwìltsaii kwaa ts’àt
nits’òo gwiinzii gwitr’it gwahahtsaa geenjit chan jii gwizhit
gwidinithitł’oh. Gwitr’it t’agwäh’ii kat gat’igiiniidhan kwaa,
nits’òo yeenjì’ gwa’àn uunjit kat gwitr’it t’agwäh’ii ts’àt
kaiik’it gwa’àn gwizhit dinjii kat gat’igiiniidhan kwaa jii kat
tthak gwits’agwighah t’iinch’uh. Nits’òo yeenoo dài’ gwitr’it
geenjit tr’iilee gugwiłtsaii, kaiik’it gwizhit dinjii kat tthak
gwizhit giheelyaa, jidii tthak gahgwiheedandaii geenjit
dinehtł’eh kak nitr’ihee’aa aii geeghee yeenoo dài’ nits’òo
tr’igwiindài’ gwinjik gwiinzii gwitr’it gwahahtsaa geenjit
dinehtł’eh tr’ahahtsaa aii ts’àt kaiik’it gwizhit nits’òo gwiidandaii
jii kat tthak gwinjik gwiinzii gwitr’it gwahähtsah.
Gwitr’it gwahähtsaa geenjit tr’iilee tr’igwähtsii dài’ dinjii
zhuh kat tthak gwizhit giheelyaa geenjit iisrits’àt gwijiinchii,
jii gwik’iighè’ jidìi gahgidandaii, jidìi geenjit ganiinjì’gadhat
ts’àt jidìi iisrits’àt guuveenjit gwijiinchii gwinjik gwiinzii
gwitr’it gahahtsah.

There is great interest in incorporating traditional knowledge
into conservation and development planning. It is
especially important to try to develop planning and management
approaches that actually integrate traditional
knowledge and western management systems. In northern
Canada, modern comprehensive land claim agreements
have been negotiated and signed with the intent
of transferring lands, rights, and resource management
responsibilities. Many important lessons can be derived
from the integrated approach to conservation and resource
planning undertaken in the Gwich’in Settlement
Area. This paper outlines the key management structures
and the systematic processes used to try and incorporate
Gwich’in traditional knowledge. Successes and failures
are highlighted and key strategies and tools are outlined
as well. Key barriers included staff resistance, westernscience
biases, and community concerns about westernapproaches.
Key solutions were the use of culturally appropriate
planning tools, full involvement of community
groups, the setting of integrated, strategic research agendas,
the development of traditional knowledge policies,
and the development of other concrete mechanisms for
incorporating local values and knowledge. It is necessary
to have full involvement of the indigenous people in the
design, development and implementation of the planning
and management processes so that the entire system is
more reflective of their knowledge, worldviews, and priorities.


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