Climate Change in the Arctic:
       How Indigenous knowledge and Science
                              Can Help

                                         20 February 2019
                                       Potsdam, Germany

On 20 February the indigenous researcher Jocelyn Joe-Strack visited Potsdam to present her perspective on the contribution of indigenous knowledge to science at the seminar on Climate Change in the Arctic: How Indigenous Knowledge and Science Can Help. The event was organized by the Canadian Embassy in Berlin in cooperation with the German Arctic Office of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). 

Jocelyn Joe-Strack was born and currently lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. She is a member of the Wolf Clan of northwestern Canada’s Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. As an indigenous PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan and head of her own consultancy Subarctic Research & Strategyshe strives to evolve tomorrow’s policies by blending yesterday’s ancestral lessons with today’s systematic knowledge.

Among other things, she reported on a local example that happened close to her home. Scientists were coming to investigate changes in the Lake Aishihik, after it is now used as a reservoir for a hydroelectric power plant by the energy provider Yukon Energy. The scientists concluded that the lake is in a good condition. However, from the local’s point of view the lake is unhealthy, as the fish species that they have lived on is no longer living in it. The survey of this fish species was not part of the scientist’s study. This is an example showing the gap existing in the cooperation between scientists and local inhabitants. Despite many hearings between both parties the process remained unsolved.

Joe-Strack sees the problem of today as such: We, humans, as part of the nature run the risk of losing our connection to our lands, our language and culture. Instead, we should look in and take care of our nature. Because “when the land is healthy, we are healthy. If we are healthy, we are able to take care of the land as the original care takers as our cultural obligation”

The keynote was followed by a discussion about the connection between science and indigenous knowledge, including the panelists Kathrin Stephen and Vilena Valeeva from IASS and Hughues Lantuit and Volker Rachold from AWI. The panel discussion was moderated by Ghislain Robichaud, Science and Technology Counsellor of the Embassy of Canada in Berlin. 

The event met the interest of the audience and the discussions among the 40 participants of the seminar continued during the reception held after the event.