Nêhiyawak (Cree) and Climate Change in Saskatchewan: Insights from the James Smith and Shoal Lake First Nations
AbstractIndigenous 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.
Adger, N. (2001) Social capital and climate change. Tyndall Center Working Paper No. 8, Norwich, England.
Berkes, F. (2008) Sacred Ecology. New York: Routledge.
Bridges, K. and McClatchey, W. (2009) Living on the margin: Ethnoecological insights from Marshall Islanders at Rongelap atoll. Global Environmental Change, 19(2): 140-146.
Bryant, C.R., Smit, B., Brklacich, M., Johnston, T.R., Smithers, J., Chiotti, Q. and Singh, B. (2000) Adaptation in Canadian agriculture to climatic variability and change. Climatic Change, 45(1): 181-201.
Catto, N.R. and Parewick, K. (2008) Hazard and vulnerability assessment and adaptive planning: Mutual and multilateral community-researcher communication, Arctic Canada. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 305: 123-140.
Doran, P.T. and Kendall Zimmerman, M. (2009) Examining the scientific consensus on climate change. Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 90(3): 22-23.
Dyck, N. (1991) What is the Indian ‘Problem’. St. John’s: The Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Ermine, W., Sauchyn, D. and Pittman, J. (2008) Report Nikan Oti: The Future – Understanding adaptation and capacity in two First Nations. Ottawa: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program.
Ermine, W., Sauchyn, D., Vetter, M. and Hart, C. (2007) Report Isi Wipan – Climate: Identifying the impacts of climate change and capacity for adaptation in two Saskatchewan First Nation communities. Ottawa: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program.
Ermine, W., Nilson, R., Sauchyn, D., Sauve, E. and Smith, R. (2005) Report Isi Askiwan – The State of the Land: Prince Albert Grand Council Elders Gathering on Climate Change. Ottawa: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program.
Ford, J., Pearce, T., Gilligan, J., Smit, B. and Oakes, J. (2008) Climate change and hazards associated with ice use in Northern Canada. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 40(4): 647-659.
Ford, J.D. and Smit, B. (2004) A framework for accessing the vulnerability of communities in the Canadian Arctic to risks associated with climate change. Arctic, 57(4): 389-400.
Füssel, H.M. and Klein, R.J.T. (2002) Assessing vulnerability and adaptation to climate change: An evolution of conceptual thinking. Havana: UNDP Expert Group Meeting on Integrating Disaster Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change, June 17-19, 2002.
Hallegatte, S. (2009) Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change. Global Environmental Change, 19(2): 240-247.
Handmer, J.M., Dovers, S. and Downing, T.E. (1999) Societal vulnerability to climate change and variability. Mitigation and Adaptive Strategies for Global Change, 4(3-4): 267-281.
Indian Claims Commission (ICC) (2005) James Smith Cree Nation: Chakastaypasin IR 98 Inquiry, available online at: http://www.indianclaims.ca/pdf/james_smith_IR98A.pdf, accessed May 20, 2009.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Johnston, M. (2008) Impacts of Climate Change on the Island Forests of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Research Council, 12168-1E08.
Johnston, M., Wheaton, E., Kulshreshtha, S., Wittrock, V. and Thorpe, J. (2001) Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate: An Assessment of the Western Canadian Boreal Forest. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Research Council, 11341-8E01.
Kasperson, R.E. and Kasperson, J.X. (2001) Climate Change, Vulnerability and Social Justice. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute, Risk and Vulnerability Programme.
Kelly, P.M. and Adger, W.N. (2000) Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate and facilitating adaptation. Climatic Change, 47(4): 325-352.
Kulshreshtha, S., Johnston, M. and Wheaton, E. (2001) Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate Change: Conceptual Framework for Economic Analysis. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Research Council, 11341-4D01.
McLeod, N. (2007) Cree Narrative Memory: From Treaties to Contemporary Times. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing, Ltd.
Morito, B. (2002) Thinking Ecologically. Canada: Fernwood Publishing Co.
Mignone, J. and O’Neil, J. (2005) Social capital as a health determinant in First Nations communities. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 2(1): 26-35.
National Climate Archive (2005) Canadian Climate Normals or Averages 1961 to 1990. Ottawa: Environment Canada, Accessed: March, 2008, Available online at:
O’Brien, K., Eriksen, S., Schjolden, A. and Nygaard, L. (2004) What’s in a word? Conflicting interpretations of vulnerability in climate change research. Oslo: Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), 2004:04.
Petterson, M.G., Tolia, D., Cronin, S.J. and Addison, R. (2008) Communicating geosciences to indigenous people: examples from the Solomon Islands. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 305: 141-161.
Pietroniro, A., Demuth, M., Dornes, P., Toyra, J., Kouwen, N., Bingeman, A., Hopkins, C., Burn, D. and Brua, B. (2006) Stream flow shifts resulting from past and future glacier fluctuations in the eastern flowing basins of the Rocky Mountains. NWRI Internal Publication, Contribution Number 06-026, Fountain Valley, CA: National Water Research Institute.
Pittman, J. (2009a) The Vulnerability of the James Smith and Shoal Lake First Nations to Climate Change and Variability. Las Vegas: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference, March 22-28, 2009.
Pittman, J. (2009b) Coming to know: My experience with traditional knowledge as a wêmistikôsiw in the land of the nêhiyawak. University of Guelph, Invited Talk, March 20, 2009.
Pittman, J., Cook, E., Diaz, P. and Sauchyn, D. (2009) Coping with Change - Family Camp at the Shoal Lake Cree Nation. In Oakes, J., Riewe, R. Cogswell, A. (eds.) Sacred Landscapes, Winnipeg: Aboriginal Issues Press, pp. 207-214.
Raby, S. (1972) Indian Treaty No. 5 and the Pas Agency, Saskatchewan, N.W.T. Saskatchewan History, 25: 92-114.
Salick, J. and Ross, N. (2009) Traditional peoples and climate change. Global Environmental Change, 19(2): 137-139.
Saporta, R., Malcolm, J.R. and Martell, D.L. (1998) The impact of climate change on Canadian forests. In: Koshida, G. and Avis, W. (eds.) Responding to Global Climate Change: National Sectoral Issue. Ottawa: Environment Canada, pp. 319-382.
Sauchyn, D. and Kulshreshtha, S. (2008) Prairies. In: Lemmen, D.S., Warren, F.J., Lacroix, J. and Bush, E. (eds.) From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 Ottawa: Government of Canada, pp. 275-328.
Smit, B. and Pilifosova, O. (2001) Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. In: McCarthy, J., Canziana, O.F., Leary, N.A., Dokken, D.J., and White, K.S. (eds.) Climate change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 876-912.
Smit, B. and Pilifosova, O. (2003) From adaptation to adaptive capacity and vulnerability reduction. In: Smith, J.B., Klein, R.J.T. and Huq, S. (eds.) Climate Change, Adaptive Capacity and Development. London: Imperial College Press, pp. 9-28.
Smit, B. and Wandel, J. (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global Environmental Change, 16(3): 282–292.
Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M. and Miller, H.L. (eds.) (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Turner, B., Kasperson, R. E., Matson, P. A., McCarthy, J., Corell, R., Christensen, L., Eckley, N., Kasperson, J. X., Luers, A., Martello, M. L., Polsky, C., Pulsipher, A., and Schiller, A. (2003) A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(14): 8074-8079.
Turner, N. and Clifton, H. (2009) “It’s so different today”: Climate change and indigenous lifeways in British Columbia, Canada. Global Environmental Change, 19(2): 180-190.
Wheaton, E. (1997) Forest ecosystems and climate. In Herrington, R., Johnson, B., and Hunter, F. (eds.) Responding to global climate change in the Prairies: Volume III of the Canada Country Study: Climate Impacts and Adaptation. Ottawa: Environment Canada.
Wheaton, E.E. and MacIver, D.C. (1999) A framework and key questions for adapting to climate variability and change. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 4(3-4): 215-225.
Yohe, G. and Tol, R.S.J. (2002) Indicators for social and economic coping capacity—moving toward a working definition of adaptive capacity. Global Environmental Change, 12(1): 25–40.
- The contributor(s) (authors) warrant that the entire work is original and unpublished; it is submitted only to this Journal and all text, data, figures/tables or other illustrations included in this work are completely original and unpublished, and these have not been previously published or submitted elsewhere in any form or media whatsoever.
- The contributor(s) warrant that the work contains no unlawful or libelous statements and opinions and liable materials of any kind whatsoever, does not infringe on any copyrights, intellectual property rights, personal rights or rights of any kind of others, nor contains any plagiarized, fraudulent, improperly attributed materials, instructions, procedures, information or ideas that might cause any harm, damage, injury, losses or costs of any kind to person or property.
- The contributor(s) retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- The contributor(s) are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- The contributor(s) are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
- Geography Research Forum may disseminate the content of the publications and publications’ Meta data in text, image, or other print and electronic formats to providers of research databases (e.g. EBSCO, GeoBase, JSTOR) to facilitate publications' exposure.