Researchers turn lens on Aboriginal issues

Douglas Clark

Douglas Clark

Aboriginal issues – from oilsands impact to incorporating indigenous knowledge and the legal duty to consult – form a strong theme running through University of Saskatchewan research awarded $1.2 million by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

“Aboriginal engagement and scholarship are identified within a signature area of strength at the U of S, one with real impact on the lives of people,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “This support from SSHRC provides critical resources for our researchers to share knowledge that will advance Aboriginal ways of knowing and address social and economic disparities.”

Some of the 23 recipients are:

Duty to consult: Law professor Dwight Newman is awarded $29,000 to examine how – and whether – international law is applied to the inherent rights of indigenous peoples in the wake of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Newman will look at examples from around the world to see if governments actually “walk the talk” with regard to issues such as the duty to consult for resource development and land use, and how law can more effectively respond to the rights of indigenous peoples, as understood by the people themselves.

Oilsands impact: Anthropologist Clinton Westman is awarded $62,000 to examine the social, cultural, economic and health impacts of oilsands development in northern Alberta, including traditional land use by Aboriginal Peoples. He will also look at how oilsands development aligns with national and international law and policy on impact assessment with regard to Aboriginal Peoples, and look at how – and whether – Aboriginal experiences are incorporated into current environmental assessment processes. He will also work with specific communities to help them respond during the public hearing process of major proposed oilsands projects. Westman is an assistant professor in the department of archaeology and anthropology.

Resource management: Education and environment researcher M.J. Barrett is awarded $75,000 to develop effective ways of incorporating Aboriginal knowledges and perspectives into resource management such as environmental assessment, parks management, and co-management processes. Her cross-cultural, interdisciplinary team includes both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal scientists and community members, who will not only create new knowledge, but also teach it through educational modules for graduate students, university faculty, and environmental professionals. Barrett is an assistant professor in the College of Education and School of Environment and Sustainability.

Coping with environmental change: Centennial Chair and Assistant Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability Douglas Clark is awarded $37,000 to examine how Aboriginal and local knowledge can be respectfully integrated with scientific knowledge to strengthen decision-making processes for natural resource management. Clark’s work focuses on the southwest Yukon and Mongolia, two mountain ecosystems where local knowledge is vital to wildlife conservation but used in very different ways. In both places climate change impacts are real and current concerns to wildlife managers. This project promises to help them enhance the ways they involve Aboriginal and local people in adaptive decision-making.

Our sense of place: Education and environment researcher Marcia McKenzie is awarded $112,000 to explore how our relationships with our environment as we grow up affect how we think and act about environmental sustainability. She will look at formation of youth identity in relation to place across Aboriginal, settler and transnational populations, and explore implications for learning and sustainability education policy. McKenzie is an assistant professor in the College of Education and the School of Environment and Sustainability.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is the federal agency that promotes and supports postsecondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. The grants described above are provided through SSHRC’s standard grant program and new Insight grants program.

For a complete listing of projects awarded, visit www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca.

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