Nêhiyawak (Cree) and Climate Change in Saskatchewan: Insights from the James Smith and Shoal Lake First Nations

  • Jeremy Pittman University of Regina
Keywords: Climate Change, Coping Capacity, Exposure, Sensitivity, Saskatchewan, Cree


Indigenous peoples have and will face the challenge of adapting to change.  Anthropogenic climate change, in particular, is expected to have implications for Indigenous peoples in the coming century.  This paper identifies the existing sensitivities and coping capacities to climate and other external stressors of two Saskatchewan First Nation communities, the James Smith and Shoal Lake First Nations. Following the vulnerability approach, exposures and adaptive capacities are documented from community members’ perspectives.  These communities were selected based on their location within the transition from grassland to boreal forest, a natural region in northern Saskatchewan expected to undergo significant changes in the future due to climate change. A broad range of social, biophysical, environmental, economic and institutional stressors are found in these two First Nations communities.   It is not these conditions in isolation that are beneficial or problematic; it is the combination of conditions that creates a context for vulnerability.  The historical experience of First Nations people dealing with tutelage and Canadian policies not attuned to their needs has led, in part, to problems of economic dependence and unhealthy lifestyles on-reserve.  Social capital and local governance are important for coping with change, but in some cases these capacities have been compromised.  Indigenous knowledge and lessons from the Elders are important resources that may provide the basis for successful climate change adaptation.


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