Indigenous voices support environmental monitoring in Alberta

(May 31, 2017) – Community-based monitoring and Indigenous knowledge will bolster Alberta’s approach to environmental science, thanks to a groundbreaking advisory panel.

The Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel will advise Fred Wrona, Alberta’s Chief Scientist, about how to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and traditional ecological knowledge into environmental monitoring.

The inaugural panel includes academics, industry experts, Elders and a former Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada commissioner. The seven-member expert panel is the first legislated advisory body of its kind in Canada.

Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild signs the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel mandate with his fellow panel members, Minister Phillips and the Chief Scientist.

“First Nations and Metis are vital to Alberta’s resource economy, but have been historically shut out of environmental monitoring decisions,” stated Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks. “This panel is a step towards a holistic approach to monitoring, built on a commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

 “The government’s creation of this panel of Indigenous wisdom holders and western scientists is an example of the winds of change sweeping across the nation,” added Elmer Ghostkeeper, Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel member.  “As we focus on a sustainable environment for the next seven generations of Albertans, it’s an exciting period in history to be a panel committee member.”

Legislated in spring 2016, the panel’s mandate is the product of months of collaboration with the panel following a blanket ceremony at Government House in October. The mandate includes several unique features, including a consensus-based process for giving collective advice and a recognition of the importance of both oral and written communication.

Twice a year, the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel will meet with the Chief Scientist to discuss how to improve approaches to applying Indigenous wisdom in environmental monitoring. The same legislation governs the Science Advisory Panel, which will assess the scientific quality of environmental monitoring.

“Indigenous wisdom is fundamental to measuring, assessing and informing on the condition of Alberta’s environment,” explained Fred Wrona, Chief Scientist, Environment and Parks.

“By braiding the advice of the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel with that of the Science Advisory Panel, we will create long-term environmental monitoring programs that reflect both scientific experts and Indigenous communities.”

 “The Science Advisory Panel is pleased to see the Government of Alberta’s continued commitment towards independent environmental monitoring,” concluded Jill Baron, chair, Science Advisory Panel. “We recognize the value of Indigenous and local knowledge in helping interpret the environment around us and the changes taking place. This joint meeting between the two panels is an exciting step towards a new approach to Alberta’s environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting system.”

The members of the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel are:

  • Leroy Little Bear – Elder and senior adviser to the president, Aboriginal Initiatives, University of Lethbridge
  • Elmer Ghostkeeper – Elder and council member, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement
  • Henry Lickers – Elder and environmental science officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
  • Harley Bastien – president, Harmony Walkers, Inc.
  • Reg Crowshoe –  Piikani First Nation Elder and professor of Indigenous Studies, University of Calgary
  • Melody Lepine – director, Mikisew Cree First Nations, Industry Relations
  • Wilton Littlechild – Grand Chief of Treaty 6 and lawyer, commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

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