The importance of Indigenous knowledge systems
Working with First Nations is vital, and in B.C, is the law. The province is legally obligated to consult First Nations on land and resource decisions that may impact them, Deborah McGregor, an associate professor at York University and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice, tells Refinery29. This is critically important as Indigenous communities have knowledge systems that must inform how the province approaches the management and preservation of natural resources.
But acceptance of Indigenous knowledge systems hasn’t always been a priority for governments. McGregor, who has authored papers on Indigenous knowledge systems, says she’s finally seeing a paradigm shift where NGOs and scientists are starting to pay attention. “[People] are realizing that people on the ground know things, and where Indigenous people live is where the greatest biodiversity is,” McGregor says. “There's knowledge that Indigenous people have on ways of being that ensure sustainability of ecosystems and biodiversity.”
Currently, the forest plans and strategies used by the government and logging companies are not sustainable, McGregor adds. While there are always going to be different visions about what needs to happen, as well as competing interests, Indigenous knowledge systems need to be part of the solution.
“These big disaster reports are a wake-up call,” McGregor says, referring to increasing warnings on the dangers of climate change and unsustainable human behaviours. “We need to transform the status quo because it’s not working. It's actually not serving anybody, so why do we keep doing it?”