Collaboration for Biodiversity Conservation and Indigenous Health and Well-being
Our UNESCO Chair is shared by Danika Billie Littlechild, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Brenda Parlee and is hosted at the University of Alberta. The University is located on Amiskwacîwâskahikan ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᕀ ᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis.
The territories in which the Ărramăt Project was developed are the ancestral homelands of many Indigenous Peoples (IPs) including the Anishinaabe and Algonquin (Ontario); Néhiyaw, Dene, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot and Métis of Treaties 6 & 7 (Alberta); Kanien'kehà:ka (Quebec); Mi'kmaw (Nova Scotia); and the Coast Salish peoples of the Səlil̓wətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) and Kwikwetlem Nations (British Columbia). We acknowledge the many other Indigenous territories where our Team is living and working. We give thanks to our sacred lands and waters, all beings and spirits on Mother Earth, and we express gratitude for all our relations and responsibilities. We give thanks to our ancestors for all they have done to care for the lands and waters since time immemorial. The Ărramăt Project is, at its core, about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth; life and livelihood; identity and expression; biodiversity and sustainability; stewardship and well-being. Although we are limited by academic conventions, and the predominance of the English language, our Team offers a holistic Indigenous-led approach to researching the interrelationships between biodiversity and health-wellbeing. “Ărramăt ” - which means a state of wellbeing (shared by the environment, animals and humans) in the Indigenous Tamasheq language (Mali) – speaks to our holistic worldview. Many similar concepts are reflected in other Indigenous languages globally. We have chosen to engage in the Ărramăt Project through “Ethical Space” framed by principles of reciprocity, recognition, and reconciliation wherein Indigenous knowledges, cultures, histories and ways of life are respected.
The Chair focuses on creating teaching and learning spaces and opportunities for Indigenous knowledge and practices related to Indigenous-led conservation, health and well-being
This includes catalysing opportunities for coordinated research across cultures; creation of open-access sharing of the methods beyond the Ărramăt project
We also aim to support collaborative learning through shared synthesis of research from place-based research projects across scales.
We are creating partnerships between different knowledges and actors, such as Indigenous communities and academic institutions and other international organizations.
This includes nurturing institutional learning through policy related outputs for governments, (ENGOs) and global organizations (e.g., African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
The Chair also aims to strengthen the dialogue between knowledges by highlighting the tools developed within the Ărramăt project.
We will be developing ii) indicators and methods for tracking and interpreting patterns, trends and tipping points in biodiversity and health-wellbeing, iii) model innovations and solutions for biodiversity conservation and care of people in hot-spot regions.
Our work also includes the dissemination of results from research within and through local, national and international organizations,
Our approach begins with respect for the decision-making systems of each Indigenous Government and Organization involved in the Arramat Project. Through respecting Free, Prior and Informed Consent as well as the ethical principles of each Indigenous Nation, we will ensure our collaborative work is ethical and empowering to Indigenous Peoples, particularly those who are often not included in research or decision-making about biodiversity and Indigenous health and well-being..
Our work is guided by well-established Indigenous Research Methodologies which are in widening use in Canada and globally. But we are also learning from Indigenous governments and organizations as they carry out their own place-based research in ways that are culturally meaningful and practical. These Indigenous ways of documenting and sharing knowledge will be enlivened and amplified through the work of the Chair.
We anticipate being able to fill gaps in institutions where IK has already been identified as important and needed. One example is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Interactions between IGOs and relevant policy makers are likely to build trust and cohesion which are the foundation for effective knowledge transfer; this, in turn, can lead to deeper kinds of learning (i.e., institutional learning) transferable elsewhere. However, such learning is likely to be uneven as institutions vary in their openness to learning, particularly where a change to the status quo is costly to those in power.
Ărramăt will also be a catalyst for breakthroughs in institutional arrangements. Innovations are anticipated such as the creation of bridging organizations that can intersect with established silos of biodiversity conservation (e.g., IUCN) on the one hand, and health on the other (e.g., WHO). This is particularly needed where IPs are routinely silenced and/or where IK has not yet been identified by governments as directly relevant.
The work of the Chair is is relevant to numerous UNESCO programs including Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) or the Biosphere program. Not surprisingly, we also see a strong connection to the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) program. Chair will contribute to UNESCO’s work in the context of the International Decade for Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), as well as two other decades in which UNESCO is engaged: the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which includes attention to Indigenous knowledges, as well as the UN Decade of Ecosystems Restoration,
The Chair will build connections to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and contribute to the inclusion of the promotion of Indigenous peoples’ knowledges, recognition and respect for their rights and world views.
Danika Billie Littlechild is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies.
Brenda Parlee is a Professor in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology in the Faculty of Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.