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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Indigenous knowledge, climate change and forest management : the Nisga'a Nation approach Arias-Bustamante, Jose


Climate change is one of the current threats that are impacting the world, and its consequences are greater when it comes to vulnerable communities. Despite its vast areas covered by untouched forest and plenty of natural resources, British Columbia, with a myriad of First Nations and other Indigenous peoples, is not the exception. First Nations culture and knowledge are based on natural resources; therefore, trying to understand what are the major impacts of a changing climate becomes paramount. Through this research, I sought to examine and characterize potential climate changes impacts in the lands covered by the Nisga’a Nation (Northern BC), and how these impacts are affecting traditional forest practices of the Nisga’a people. The method I used to gather the stories of participants in this study was participatory interviews. For the knowledge interpretation and analysis, I integrated individual research stories and thematic coding. I also conducted a community presentation during which the results were presented to the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute Board of Directors, enabling the findings to be validated. The Nisga’a People are very concerned about the consequences that climate change could have on fish, not only because of the warmer temperatures, but also because of the flooding and the high level of the Nass River. Forests and the river are intimately connected, so any impacts on forests would have implications on the river, and consequently on fish. For instance, flooding and pests pose great risk to forests. Flooding affects the regeneration of forests species, and pests affect growth, even killing important cultural species for the Nisga’a people (e.g. western redcedar). Thus, by improving the forest’s resilience, the conditions that fish are facing during the spawning seasons would be also improved. To improve current conditions, the findings suggest that it is an imperative to revitalize a more traditional Nisga’a-oriented approach to resource management by adopting an integrative approach, where the management is undertaken from a resilience point of view, allowing the Nisga’a forests to return to their past non-degraded status (i.e. before logging started), and thus able to absorb the expected and unexpected impacts deriving from climate change.

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