Kim-Ly Thompson

University of Victoria
Most environmental monitoring programs in parks focus only on physical or biological monitoring, missing the observations and experiences of people. At their invitation, we are working with the Gitga’at First Nation on the north coast of BC to continue the development of an environmental monitoring program based on Gitga’at knowledge. This entails co-development with Gitga’at elders and harvesters to design monitoring objectives and data collection methods to suit their needs. A key message emerging from our collaboration is that being out on the land and water is paramount to enabling ongoing Gitga’at observations. Indeed, harvesters have told us that a key impediment to maintaining observations is lack of access to boats to get to harvesting areas. In addition, some Gitga’at harvesting practices enhance productivity (e.g., harvesting seaweed, clams, cockles), and thus lack of use may reduce ecological integrity. In this presentation, we will describe the Gitga’at monitoring program, emphasizing our current research process which begins with facilitating harvesters access to key locations in our study Conservancies. We will report on interviews of participating harvesters about the condition of the resources being harvested, changes they observed if they have harvested there previously, and their experience in participating in the activity. While this monitoring program was designed with the Gitga’at people, the process we used, and perhaps some of the data collection methods, can be adapted by other First Nations interested in incorporating their knowledge and observations into monitoring programs.