Tracey Proverbs – MA Candidate in Environmental Studies
University of Victoria
Collaboration with: Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) and GTC Department of Cultural Heritage
Trevor Lantz – Supervisor
Socioecological Change Affecting the Cultural Landscape and Fishing Livelihoods in the Gwich’in Settlement Region
Northern communities and landscapes are experiencing rapid socioecological change. In the Gwich’in Settlement Region (GSR), environmental disturbances associated with climate change and industrial development are increasing cumulative impacts on the landscape. These impacts can significantly alter landscapes through changes to soil properties, hydrology, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity, and also affect Indigenous peoples who are intertwined with and utilize their landscapes for subsistence and cultural traditions. Collectively, these changes have the potential to affect Gwich’in livelihoods, as well as the cultural and ecological landscape of the region.
In response to these changes, and in partnership with the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, the Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC), and the GTC Department of Cultural Heritage, my Master’s research explores the following two research questions:
1) What are current impacts of environmental disturbances on the Gwich’in cultural landscape? and
2) How does access to fish affect Gwich’in well-being?
To answer the first question, I am utilizing spatial overlay analysis to examine the overlap between areas of cultural significance and environmental disturbance in the GSR. This has been followed by consultation interviews with four cultural resource experts in the region, in preparation for a Secondary Analysis. For the second question, I have conducted 26 semi-structured community and land-based interviews about Gwich’in community members’ personal fishing history, observations about access to fish and fishing, and observations of socioecological changes to fish and fishing livelihoods. These interviews are now being analyzed for interactions between environmental change, access to fish, and well-being. The findings from this research will increase our understandings of regional socioecological change, and inform cultural and natural resource manage