Dálkke Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Re-searching healthy and sustainable environments

Dr Frances Wyld - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

This ongoing meta-research project spans three lands using multiple methods to document Indigenous perspectives on climate change and the need for societal change to realign with the sovereign knowledges of First Nation Peoples. For the purpose of this presentation we focus on two Indigenous territories (Sábmi and Australia) with a discussion on the how the project was created, the methodologies used and the stories that have emerged. Knowledge of lands and waters is inherent in Sámi culture and transferred between generations. Change of climate is a normal part of livelihood, to which Sámi have adapted through constant reorganisations. However, what makes it troublesome today is the destructive practices of the settler colonial state, radically diminishing the space for adaptation and resilience. Similarly, in Australia the project found that Aboriginal people have shared knowledge over millennium on how the environment changes and how to change with it, to care for it and each other through safe ecological practises including, for example, fire mitigation. This presentation is a story of the research but also a conversation between two Indigenous scholars who work together from opposites sides of the world; from lands of ice and fire (Öhman & Wyld, 2014), who find that it is the desire for sustainable communities within colonised lands that creates common ground and academic purpose.

The meta-project is based within CEMFOR (Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism) at Uppsala University in Sweden but the researchers, when possible, have travelled their lands to bear witness to stories of climate change passed down through generations alongside examples of the negative colonial impact on the natural environment. We talk to Sámi reindeer herders alongside Indigenous custodians of waterways and landscapes who are struggling to maintain traditional ways of being and knowing within a backdrop of questionable energy production, unsafe agricultural practises and colonial settler reluctance to recognise Indigenous knowledges for maintaining a healthy environment. Dálkke is the Lule Sámi word for weather, and as Indigenous peoples we are weather watchers; peoples who know the seasons for sustainable life practises, people who know how to move, to hunt and harvest, and why and when the land needs to burn safely. The project is ongoing and will continue to re-search and collect stories to create a meta-story (Martin, 2008), reporting to the funding body (FORMAS) on Indigenous peoples’ capacities to analyse and address the consequences as well as mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. These are the decolonising stories we need to hear.