This story led me to a much larger international story about funding, which is usually not an exciting topic but this time, it was different.
First, there are the Salmon Science Camps.
A January 25, 2022 University of British Columbia (UBC) news release (also on EurekAlert and received via email) announces new funding for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education initiative that focuses on Indigenous youth, salmon, and science,
Imagine a summer camp where you can watch grizzly bears catch salmon in streams, while learning about the migration and preparation of the fish hovering in the water at your feet.
Welcome to the Salmon Science Camp for Nisga’a youth, run by Dr. Andrea Reid (she/her), principal investigator of the Centre for Indigenous Fisheries at UBC. With new funding from the multi-institutional $24 million Ărramăt Project, Dr. Reid plans to expand these camps and open doors to scientific learning.
What are the Salmon Science camps?
We started these camps in 2016, with funding from the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada] Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program, focusing on Nisga’a Nation youth aged four to 17 years old in Gingolx, my grandmother’s home village in British Columbia, at the base of the Alaska Panhandle. Each summer since, we charter boats and hire buses to get young people out onto the land and water where they follow the salmon life cycle, through all parts of the watershed from spawning grounds to the ocean and back again.
They learn to identify plants and animals, meet technicians working for the Nisga’a fisheries and wildlife department, learn from Elders who carry important stories about hoon (salmon) and how we care for them, and get to play and experiment with different scientific tools, from radio telemetry technology to underwater drones to water testing toolkits!
The Gingolx Village Government education manager Renee Garner said youth return from a day on the water feeling connected to one another. One student told her they had learned how the spirit bear got its name: fish cannot see their paws in the water, making them like ghosts and great hunters, something she would never forget.
What will the Ărramăt Project allow you to do?
Led by the University of Alberta, the Ărramăt Project is focused on strengthening human health and well-being through conservation and sustainable relationships with biodiversity. As one of 51 co-applicants from around the world on the recent New Frontiers in Research Fund Transformation grant awarded to this Indigenous-led project, my work will include expanding the camps to involve youth from the three other Nisga’a Nation villages: Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksihlkw, and Laxgalts’ap. We also want to create exchanges with neighbouring Nations, so camp attendees can learn about their different relationships with fish, including preparation methods and how they differ across cultures and environmental contexts. These exchanges will also promote cross-cultural learning and relationship building, bringing Indigenous youth together from across the province. All our activities build on the fundamental idea that salmon health and human well-being are inextricably linked, and we all need to do our part to ensure a better future for us all.
Why are these camps important?
These camps open a door to science and immersive learning experiences for Indigenous youth that might not necessarily be available due to the location of Gingolx, and they get to see a whole range of Nisga’a citizens as experts and scientists. This might mean they begin to see science as a future avenue for themselves, and view caring for salmon in the way Nisga’a have always done as not only an act of stewardship, but a truly scientific practice that is based on observation, experimentation, and other systematic ways of building knowledge about the world in which we all live. The camps demonstrate for youth that Indigenous science is science – it’s just as valid and important as conventional academic knowledge.
Interview language(s): English (Reid)
Congratulations to Dr. Reid!
Funding—have patience, it gets more interesting
Anyone who reads my postings with regularity will know I don’t often give compliments to funding agencies or the Canadian federal government for that matter. This time I have to offer kudos.
Breaking it down
As the news release notes, the salmon science camps got their start in 2016 with the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program.
NSERC has two programmes, the NSERC Student Ambassadors which was started in 2018 according to their webpage and the NSERC Indigenous Student Ambassadors, which does not include any history on its webpage.
It’s not clear as to whether the salmon science camps will continue getting the Gingolx/NSERC money now that a new agency and a new funding programme have become involved.
As noted in the news release, the Ărramăt Project (led by the University of Alberta) is funded under the New Frontiers in Research Fund, which itself was launched in 2018. From the About the New Frontiers in Research Fund webpage, Note: Links have been removed,
Launched in 2018, the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) funds interdisciplinary, high-risk / high-reward, transformative research led by Canadian researchers working with Canadian and international partners. The NFRF is designed to support world-leading innovation and enhance Canada’s competitiveness and expertise in the global, knowledge-based economy.
This fund seeks to inspire innovative research projects that push boundaries into exciting new areas and that have the potential to deliver game-changing impacts.
To meet its goals, the NFRF program is innovative in its design and implementation. Its novel merit review processes reflect the objectives of each funding opportunity, and the program offers flexibility in the use of grant funds to support international collaboration.
The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three federal research funding agencies: SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR] and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
The NFRF has a budget of $275 million over five years (2018-19 to 2022-23), and will grow to have an annual budget of $124 million beginning in 2023-24.
The NFRF is split into four streams: Exploration, Transformation, International, and Special Calls. The Ărramăt Project has been funded as part of the Transformation stream. (For more about the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, the NFRF, and funding opportunities, go here, scroll down and you’ll see what you’re looking for on the right side of the screen.)
Fanfare: the Ărramăt Project
“There are very few places left on earth where nature and Indigenous Peoples
are not under stress. We urgently need solutions that can ensure health and well-being for future generations.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)
Biodiversity decline is a major issue in Canada and globally. Species extinctions, along with problems of land and water quality, are not just environmental issues. These losses are also leading to impacts on human health and well-being, particularly for Indigenous Peoples. As more and more lands, rivers, plants, and animals are lost and degraded, disease risks and food insecurity will become more common. Indigenous cultural practices, languages, and knowledges are threatened; however, they can also guide us towards necessary transformation.
“Conventional policy approaches don’t help us understand and address the linkages between environmental losses and human health problems like zoonotic diseases (e.g., COVID19). We have to get out of our disciplinary and bureaucratic silos and recognize that these ecological losses are interconnected to human health. They also cause economic and social stresses on families and communities.” (Brenda Parlee)
Ărramăt is a new project funded for 2021-2027 by the New Frontiers Research Fund Transformations Program (NFRF-T) in Canada, that is being launched in response to this global biodiversity and health crisis.
“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)
Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.
The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists Danika Billie Littlechild (Carleton University), Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (former President of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), and Sherry Pictou (Dalhousie University). John O’Neil (former Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University) and Murray Humphries (Co-Director for the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition, and Environment at McGill University), are also Co- Principal Investigators of the project. The University of Alberta is the lead institution for the project (led by Brenda Parlee, Nominated Principal Investigator).
“The research builds on the momentum and opportunities created in Treaties, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We want to harness that momentum in ways that can create fundamental change to the status quo around biodiversity and health.” (Sherry Pictou)
Over half of the $24 mil research budget will go directly to Indigenous governments and organizations to lead their own work in ways that respect, protect, and elevate the knowledges and Indigenous ways of life. Cultural security and social justice for women and those of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ and ancestral gender diverse communities, will be central to the work of this Team as they address fundamental questions of common concern. How can food security be strengthened for Indigenous Peoples? What are Indigenous-led approaches to conservation that support wild species and agrobiodiversity? What are the best practices for decolonizing education and science? How can we include the voices of Indigenous youth? How can we address the widespread and recurring violence against Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples? Can we foster healthier relationships to nature? How can we emotionally and spiritually heal from the stresses and losses caused by colonial practices (e.g., residential schools), land and resource development, and climate change?
The diversity of Indigenous Peoples, knowledges, and interdisciplinary Team expertise will be mobilized through the project to produce action at local to global scales of decision-making. Dene, Nisga’a (Canada), and Batwa (Uganda) aim to produce new models of conservation for ‘species at risk’ [emphasis mine]. Other groups such as the peoples of Treaty 8 and Treaty 3 (Canada), Yawanawà (Brazil), and Aymara (Bolivia) will focus on improving land and water security. Alternative economic and livelihood strategies (e.g., Indigenous Guardians) that benefit people and nature will be a focus for Indigenous Peoples in regions such as northern Canada, the Sahara and Sahel regions, and Thailand. The knowledge and customary strategies of Māori (Aotearoa-New Zealand) will contribute to the reconnection communities to their land and seascapes and regeneration of their cultural-ecological systems. The knowledges of Nêhiyawak (Cree), Sámi, and Tribal Peoples of India will be a foundation for action to rewild or restore cultural values and uses of other degraded landscapes. More than 140 projects will be funded on these and other themes over the 6 years.
“It is an honour and a profound responsibility to be part of this Indigenous-led project. It is unique from many other large projects in its embrace of governance models like ethical space, Indigenous research methodologies, and Indigenous Knowledges.” (John O’Neil)
“I am excited to see the work reveal how Indigenous Knowledges and stewardship practices define both the origins and contemporary centres of ecological research, biodiversity science, and conservation biology.” (Murray Humphries)
By 2027, the project will have produced a diversity of holistic and actionable solutions for improved stewardship and care for people and the planet.
“Strategies for biodiversity conservation have not historically been positive for Indigenous Peoples. They have a very small voice, if any, at the tables of decision-making. We don’t just want to be token members of the colonial structures that currently exist, we want to decolonize and Indigenize decisions about nature and health. Everyone needs to be accountable. We will not give up on Mother Earth and the possibility of renewing, strengthening, and elevating the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples, their lands and waters, and all beings who rely upon them.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)
The compliments and getting back to the salmon science camps
The Ărramăt Project’s scope is breathtaking and necessary. Bravo!
I want to recognize the funding agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR). Bravo!
Plus the Gingolx Village Government Education Department. Bravo!
And, I want to acknowledge one other group (from the Acknowledging New Frontiers in Research Fund Support and Communicating the Value of your Research webpage),
Federal support for research is an investment by the people of Canada [emphasis mine]. It is important for taxpayers to know how research dollars are being spent. By demonstrating the value of your research, New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) award recipients help strengthen public understanding of and support for high-risk, high-reward, interdisciplinary and international research.
Finally, Brava Dr. Reid! I don’t imagine it was easy to start your project and keep it running.
Canadians and their government have a great deal to grapple with in regard to indigenous people and much of it quite ugly. This funding doesn’t negate the past or absolve anyone of their sins but it does point to new possibilities for our relationships with each other and with our planet. (For anyone unfamiliar with the history of the relationship between the Canadian government and its Indigenous peoples there’s this essay on Wikipedia. Also, here’s the Residential Schools in Canada essay in the Canadian Encyclopedia and and there’s more here on the federal government’s Residential schools in Canada webpage.)
Not to get too carried away with grand visions, here’s a science salmon camp video,
Small steps, eh?