Setting

 

The Mackenzie River is known by many names to local communities (e.g., Dehcho in Slavey, Nagwichoonjik in Gwich’in and Kuukpak in Inuvialuktun). The Basin stretches across large parts of western Canada and is home to more than 300000 people, there are many diverse Indigenous peoples living in the Mackenzie River Basin. The subsistence fishery of the Mackenzie features numerous species including broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) and loche (Lota lota).

The Lower Mekong River is named Maè Nam Khong (mother of all rivers) in both Lao and Thai languages. More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong; among these are the ethnic Lao speaking people who are recognized as the oldest residents of the region (Baird 2007). They depend on a significant diversity of fish species including Pangasianodon gigas (large catfish), considered to be endangered (Valbo-Jørgensen and Poulsen 2000; Mekong River Commission 2003; Baird 2007).

The Lower Amazon Basin hosts a large population of subsistence fishers including the mestizo Caboclos people of Brazil who depend on numerous fish species including catfish (Pimelodella) and Prochilodus nigricans (Begossi 1999; 2000).

Although social-culturally and ecological diverse, these three major Basins are linked case studies for the Partnership for four reasons:

 

  • The Mackenzie-Mekong-Amazon are the foundation of livelihood and well-being for the First Nations, Metis, Inuvialuit, ethnic Lao and Caboclos communities from all three basins, many of whom share common histories and experiences of social, economic and political marginalization (Nugent 1993; Clarke 2001; Chernala 2005).
  • The Mackenzie-Mekong-Amazon are also similarly framed as both “pristine” and “frontier” river systems by global actors; although resource development is advancing, communities within these regions still maintain strong subsistence fishing livelihoods that are grounded in generations of LTK.
  • Communities in all three basins also face similar opportunities and challenges in their capacity to influence the multi-jurisdictional institutions that govern their homelands; although experts on many aspects of basin ecology and socio-economic issues, they have had little influence to date in decisions of the Mackenzie River Basin Board, the Mekong River Commission and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.
  • While other major river basins (e.g., Columbia River Basin), have some similar characteristics, the Mackenzie-Mekong-Amazon are the chosen triptych case studies for the Partnership given the advances in theory and practice around LTK that have emerged in these Basins in recent years.