Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Bringing Knowledges Together
The natural world and environmental issues present critical points of convergence between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and their knowledge systems. This qualitative study engaged with 18 Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmental practitioners in interview conversations to explore their experiences in cross-cultural environmental collaborations. The research undertakes a complexity theory approach to answer the following research questions: 1.a) What skills, values, knowledges and approaches do environmental practitioners need to enable Western and Indigenous knowledge systems to come together in addressing environmental challenges? 1. b) What does effectiveness and/or success look like in cross-cultural environmental collaboration? 2. How can post-secondary and professional development educational programs impart the skills, values, knowledges and approaches that their students need to effectively engage in work that brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and their knowledge systems in addressing environmental challenges? This study applied multiple lenses to analyze and interpret the data. The author’s own reflections as both a practitioner and researcher working and teaching in crosscultural environmental contexts were a central component of the study. Through this analysis a set of skills, values, knowledges, approaches, attributes, and roles emerged. The findings reaffirm the importance of respect, relationship, responsibility, and reciprocity as central values in Indigenous praxis and identify additional values. The application of a critical theory lens illuminated that subtle racism and microaggressions influence environmental collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The study proposes a curriculum and program design for post-secondary and professional development contexts, that draws upon multiple pedagogies to prepare learners to work cross-culturally in respectful ways. These findings are relevant to environmental practitioners currently working in the field and contribute to a further articulation of an emerging Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences (IESS) pedagogy. Author Keywords: Cross-cultural collaboration, Curriculum Development, Environmental Education, Indigenous Studies, Professional Development
Identifying Indigenous Determinants of Health
The primary research question of this study was to explore the key factors influencing Indigenous health through an investigation of Inuit health in Nunavik. This research used an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design. The qualitative phase of this project employed interviews with Inuit health experts in Nunavik. The quantitative phase involved an analysis of the regional Inuit health dataset to identify predictors of Inuit self-rated health. Qualitative results identified a number of key social, cultural, environmental, and individual determinants of health in the region. Analysis of the quantitative data identified significant associations between variables such as age, physical activity, and peacefulness of the community and self-rated health. Considered in combination, the qualitative and quantitative results of this study indicate the potential value of determinants such as food security, education, and connection to land as important to Indigenous health. The analysis demonstrates that our understanding of health in an Indigenous context has to expand to include determinants beyond physical health. Author Keywords: determinants of health, Indigenous, Inuit, Nunavik, self-rated health
Nunavik Inuit Knowledge of Beluga
Socio-ecological systems are inherently complex and marine mammals are fundamentally challenging to study. In the Arctic, marine mammals occupy a central ecological role, as nutrient cyclers and as a source of food and culture for Indigenous peoples. Inuit have developed a rich knowledge system, which has not been fully actualized in application in most Arctic research. Considering the need for the best available information in marine mammal ecology, the research question guiding this dissertation was: How can multiple methods and approaches be used to more effectively gather, understand, and represent Inuit Knowledge for an improved understanding of marine mammal ecology? The dissertation investigates this question using a case study of beluga in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec) drawing on the expertise of hunters and Elders to better understand complex questions in marine mammal ecology. The thesis uses a transdisciplinary approach to address the dissertation objective and is comprised of a general introduction, followed by four chapters formatted as journal manuscripts, and closes with an integrated discussion and conclusion. The first manuscript examines the contributions of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of beluga to marine mammal literature. The second manuscript uses a sub-set of data gathered through participant mapping to apply a mapping method to explore how the spatial aspects of TEK could be better documented, analyzed, and represented. The third and fourth papers are based on the knowledge shared by hunters and Elders. The third explores the questions ‘why do beluga migrate?’ and ‘what factors influence beluga movement?’. The fourth investigates aspects of beluga foraging ecology. This dissertation makes methodological contributions through the application of kernel density estimators to participant maps as a method for transforming multiple mapped narratives into a quantitative database. The understandings shared by hunters and Elders make significant ecological contributions, particularly to foraging (e.g. diet composition and seasonal energy intake), and movement ecology (e.g. potential drivers of migration). Broadly these findings contribute to our collective understanding of beluga ecology and have implications for wildlife management. Author Keywords: Arctic, Beluga biology, foraging ecology, Inuit Knowledge, migration, transdisciplinary
Barriers and Facilitators to Indigenous Knowledge Incorporation in Policy Making
The inclusion and application of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) has become a central and often demanded element of policy making involving Indigenous peoples. However, there are very few examples that exist in the literature and elsewhere that show how IK can be effectively integrated into decisions, policies, and programs. In response to these challenges, this research explored what processes are used to incorporate IK into policy and their effectiveness through the development of a framework that sought to identify critical factors related to IK inclusion. The framework was then applied to evaluate IK incorporation opportunities in the Nunatsiavut case, focusing on the development of the Nunatsiavut Government's Environmental Protection Act. The case study analysis was used to test and provide adaptations to the initial framework. This research identifies the importance of governance structures and processes, community participation and engagement approaches, and IK research and support programming in enhancing opportunities for IK to be integrated and reflected in policy outcomes. The Nunatsiavut case largely supported, but in some cases challenged critical factors of IK incorporation identified in the framework. The findings of this study are valuable for policy and decision makers (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) regarding approaches and programs that can assist and support IK inclusion into policy processes and decisions. Author Keywords: environmental assessment, Indigenous Knowledge, Inuit Knowledge, Nunatsiavut, policy, self-government
Older Voluntarism and Rural Community Sustainability
With regards to building knowledge about rural aging, there is a gap in understanding of the diversity of older rural people’s experiences and the interaction between older rural people and the development trajectories of aging rural communities. One way to examine these experiences and interactions is through voluntarism; the activities of volunteers and voluntary organizations, which are pivotal for supporting aging in place in often-underserviced rural communities. To address this gap, this thesis features a community-based case study with a volunteer-based rural library in Ontario, Canada and was aimed at understanding the experiences of older library volunteers, examining the challenges of a rural library volunteer program and exploring how they contribute to rural community sustainability. Through surveys (n=87), interviews (n=48) and focus groups (n=6) with library volunteers, staff, board members and community leaders the findings demonstrate how older voluntarism is felt through the lived experiences of individual volunteers, poses interpersonal, operational and structural challenges, and can potentially contribute to the sustainability of rural communities. The thesis contributes to our understanding of the rural, older voluntarism and provides recommendations for ways to sustain library volunteer programs. Author Keywords:
Environmental Health Management Practices in Indigenous Communities
Environmental factors play a critical role in the health and well-being of people worldwide and the distribution of the burden of disease associated with environmental causes is disproportionately high in marginalized populations, including First Nations. In this way, environmental health problems are as much social and political problems as environmental and must be addressed as such. In Canada, the division of responsibilities for environmental health, in combination with the jurisdictional complexities of health and environment regulation and service provision on-reserve creates a First Nations environmental health management system with significant gaps. This research set out to explore the question: What are the current strengths and challenges in First Nations environmental health policy and management? A qualitative exploratory design organized in two stages and employing key informant interviews, document review and a community case study was used to examine this topic. In the first stage a review of existing programs and policies applicable to Ontario First Nations and a series of interviews with key experts on the topic in the province were conducted. A conceptual framework of the core elements affecting environmental health management in First Nations communities was developed and then applied to a case study with Mississauga First Nation in Northern Ontario. The framework included five core elements: Environmental Health Jurisdiction and Responsibility; Participation in Environmental Health Decision-Making; Access to Environmental Health Resources, Communication of Environmental Health Information; and, Role and Influence of Leadership. The findings indicate that "internal" issues, like community-based decision-making and support for environmental health initiatives seem to be least affected by the "external" issues such as access to federal funding. The "internal" issues were also shown to be critically important factors having impacts on environmental health management practices and policies in Mississauga First Nation. While there are countless barriers associated with the "external" factors that have significant impacts on environmental health management practices and policies, this research suggest that the "internal" factors can potentially be the most important factors in creating positive change in this area and as a result warrant further study in order to improve the state of environmental health issues in First Nations. Author Keywords: Community, Environmental Health, First Nations, Framework, Policy
Know*ledge Constellations and Re*constellating
The purpose of this study was to explore the educational implications of a clearer understanding of the practice of using multiple, including Indigenous, knowledges when finding solutions to place-based environmental issues. The impetus for my research came from a growing sense of urgency to address environmental issues within both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Some have argued that communities will be most successful in understanding and resolving such issues if ways can be found to work with different knowledges. However, the practice of bringing together multiple knowledges is not yet consistently effective. At the same time, there is a recognised need for individuals who are able to use different knowledges to address urgent environmental concerns. Unfortunately, there is minimal programming advice based on the perspective of individual practitioners available to guide post-secondary institutions wishing to meet this need. This lead to my first two research questions: What are the key principles and concepts in a narrative describing how individual practitioners think about using knowledges when finding solutions to place-based environmental issues? and What are the implications of this understanding for teaching and learning, especially in post-secondary Indigenous-and-Environmental education? In my project, I used a relational research approach that led to a third question: How is a complexity-inspired interpretive approach suitable for exploring these questions? I had coherent conversations with sixteen practitioners who were deliberately using multiple, including Indigenous, knowledges to find solutions to place-based environmental issues. Practitioners and I co-created a Know*ledge Constellation Story to describe how they think about using knowledges in their work. In a group coherent conversation with five educators who were familiar with Indigenous-and-Environmental education, we explored the educational implications of this story. Together, we finalised a Teaching-Learning Story of Re*constellating and identified ways to prepare students to practice re*constellating, including teaching strategies and program considerations. The Know*ledge Constellation Story and the Teaching-Learning Story of Re*constellating will inform post-secondary Indigenous-and-Environmental education. Graduates from such programs will be better prepared to engage with communities to address environmental concerns, meet legislative and policy requirements, and support research efforts that would benefit from a clearer understanding of the practice of re*constellating. Author Keywords: Complexity-Inspired Interpretive Approach, Conditions of Emergence, Indigenous-and-Environmental Education, Know*ledge Constellations, Principles of Re*constellating, Teaching and Learning
Mixed methods approaches in marine mammal science
This thesis explored the contribution of mixed methods approaches to marine mammal science through the use of concurrent and sequential designs to study distribution and feeding ecology of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Arctic region of Nunavik, Quebec, Canada. The study combines Inuit knowledge (IK), collected through semi-directed interviews with Inuit harvesters, and analyses of stable isotopes and trace elements (SI/TE) in baleen plates. A systematic literature review found that mixed methods are increasingly used in marine mammal ecology studies in remote locations, yet are still relatively rare and face a number of challenges. Both IK and SI/TE, indicated that bowhead whales have a seasonal pattern in their distribution and feeding ecology. They are most commonly present in productive nearshore areas in summertime, feeding in areas of great prey diversity, and moving to offshore areas in winter to fast. Mixed methods approaches used in this case study enabled the collection of complementary knowledge about bowhead whale ecology important for local management in a changing climate. This study also shows the value of mixed methods approaches for future marine mammal studies in Nunavik and elsewhere. Author Keywords: Arctic, bowhead whale, distribution, feeding ecology, mixed methods, traditional ecological knowledge
Protecting Sources of Drinking Water for the M'Chigeeng First Nation, Manioulin Island, Ontario
The potential impacts of domestic wastewater (DWW) on the source of drinking water for the M’Chigeeng First Nation were monitored as part of the development of a Source Water Protection plan. During a period of continuous overflow of the Gaaming Wastewater Lagoon serving the community, the chemical tracers, caffeine and sucralose were tracked in West Bay with Passive Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS). From the results, we speculated that DWI impacts could have been from three possible DWW sources. POCIS deployed above and below the thermocline indicated a higher mean sucralose concentration of 2.52 ± 1.83 ng/L in the hypolimnion of West Bay relative to mean epilimnetic sucralose concentrations of 0.56 ± 0.02 ng/L, suggesting possible wastewater percolation with an estimated time of travel of 61.5 days. Microbial loads of 200 CFU/100 ml E. coli from the lagoon overflow into Mill Creek decreased to 60 CFU/100 ml before entering West Bay. West Bay’s wastewater assimilative capacity met Provincial Water Quality Objectives in the epilimnion and hypolimnion except for dissolved oxygen in the hypolimnion at 4.16 ± 1.86 mg/L, which is a threat to the onset of hypoxia for fish (i.e. <5 mg/L). Assimilative capacity results support a Fall lagoon discharge. Author Keywords: caffeine, drinking water, Passive Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS), sucralose, thermocline, wastewater
Energy Resilience in Northern Communities
This project examines the factors for success of alternative energy initiatives in remote northern Indigenous communities, and the link between northern community energy and resilience. The case study, in the Gwich’in village of Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, focuses upon a biomass boiler district heating project that provides renewable heat fuelled by local wood chips, and the willow harvesting initiative that supports it. Data was collected by interviews and participant observation in Fort McPherson and Yellowknife, and by analysis of resilience, community energy, and biomass literature. Success factors identified include the importance of aligning energy systems with local cultural identity, traditional values and connection to landscape, values often under-represented in financially-driven energy decisions. Autonomy and self-reliance are shown to be critical factors in northern community energy decisions, related to well-being, pride in place and enhanced resilience. Community resilience is revealed as a key component of northern community energy success. Author Keywords: Energy, Indigenous, Northern, Renewable, Resilience, Sustainable
Dimensions of socio-cultural sustainability
Social and cultural sustainability is increasingly discussed in a variety of disciplines and in the growing body of sustainability literature. However there is a lack of clarity in how the concept is defined and poor understanding as to how it relates to other aspects of sustainability. To address this issue, this research explored current definitions and representations of socio-cultural sustainability in the literature and community perspectives on this topic through a case study in Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, Labrador. This research identifies gaps in current understandings of this concept, as well as differences between community and academic perspectives. Case study results emphasized the importance of strong social relationships, cultural identity, and connection to place as central elements of socio-cultural sustainability in a northern, Indigenous context. These findings are valuable for policy and decision makers, regarding approaches to community planning and supporting the social and cultural aspects of sustainability. Author Keywords: cultural sustainability, Hopedale, Inuit, Nunatsiavut, social sustainability, socio-cultural sustainability
Linking Inuit and Scientific Knowledge and Observations to Better Understand Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) Community Monitoring
Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) have been, and remain, an important subsistence resource for the Inuvialuit, the Inuit of the western Canadian Arctic. The effects of climate variability and change (CVC) in this region have been noticeably increasing over the past three decades. There are concerns as to how CVC will affect Arctic Char and the Inuvialuit who rely on this resource as they will have to adapt to changes in the fishery. Community-based monitoring, is an important tool for managing Arctic Char. Therefore, my dissertation focused on the central question of: Which community-based monitoring factors and parameters would provide the information needed by local resources users and decision-makers to make informed choices for managing Arctic Char populations in light of CVC? This question is investigated through an exploratory research approach and a mixed method research design, using both scientific and social science methods, and quantitative (scientific ecological knowledge and observation) and qualitative (Inuvialuit knowledge and observation) information. It is formatted as three journal manuscripts, an introduction, and an integrative discussion. The first manuscript examines potential habitat parameters for monitoring landlocked Arctic Char condition in three lakes on Banks Island in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The second manuscript examines potential local environmental parameters for monitoring landlocked Arctic Char growth in the same three lakes. The third manuscript investigates aspects of Arctic Char community-based monitoring programs (CBMP) in the Canadian North that have led to the sustained collection of useful data for management of the resource. This dissertation makes contributions to the field of research by demonstrating the utility of a mixed methods approach. The results demonstrate similarities and differences in char growth and condition within and among Capron, Kuptan and Middle lakes on Banks Island. This supports both lake-specific and regional climate-driven changes, meaning both lake habitat and local environmental monitoring parameters should be used in char CBMP. The investigation of char CBMP across northern Canada demonstrates that an adaptive monitoring approach is important for subsistence fisheries, as changing lifestyles and environmental changes impacting a fishery can have direct effects on the successful operation of char CBMP. Author Keywords: Arctic Char, community-based monitoring, environment, Inuit Knowledge, mixed methods, Traditional Knowledge

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