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Tying Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews to enhance environmental decision making

Tying Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews to enhance environmental decision making

Susan Chiblow

What is humanity’s relationship to water and efforts on improvement for humans, animals, and the waters themselves? How does Anishinaabek law construct the role of women in decision making about water? How does Anishinaabek law understand the relationship between water and memory? What responsibilities do humans have under Naaknigewin (law/Anishinaabek legal traditions)? Can the broader discourse in Canada about reconciliation assist with improving relationships to water? These are the questions that PhD candidate and Vanier scholar Susan Chiblow is asking with respect to her research on N’bi Kendaaswin (Water Knowledge) that focuses on three sub-themes: water governance and gender; Anishinaabek laws; and reconciliation and relationships with water.

Sue is an Anishinaabe kwe born and raised in Garden River First Nation. She has worked extensively with First Nation communities during the last 30 years in environment-related fields. She has her own consulting company, Ogamauh annag, that continues to work with First Nation communities and Elders as an Anishinaabe Advisor on environmental projects and policy analysis (i.e., watershed planning, source water protection, Anishinaabek law development, policy development, facilitation, strategic planning, report writing, environmental assessments, documenting Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and environmental management planning). With Deb McGregor and other York representatives, they have submitted comments earlier on the Government of Canada’s Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework.

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Water walk

“My work is directly related to environmental justice for Anishinaabek Peoples and to the revitalization of Anishinaabek law,” she explains. Sue was instrumental in the development of the Water Declaration of the First Nations in Ontario. The Declaration lists articles on First Nations relationships to the waters; conditions of our waters; the right of water and self-determination and; right to waters and treaties. A collaborating team member of the Indigenous Environmental Justice (IEJ) project, Sue also serves as co-chair of the Government of Canada's Indigenous Advisory Committee. She is also a current member the Species at Risk Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee and the First Nations Environmental Health Innovative Network. She has been on numerous committees for the Assembly of First Nations and for the Union of Ontario Indians Anishinabek/Ontario Resource Management Council (A/ORMC) as well as an elected band councilor for 4 years in her community of Garden River First Nation.

In a recent paper on An Indigenous Research Methodology That Employs Anishinaabek Elders, Language Speakers and Women’s Knowledge for Sustainable Water Governance, Sue illuminated the importance of engaging Anishinaabek Elders, Anishinaabemowin speakers, and Anishinaabek women in sustainable water governance. She also stressed the significance of conducting ethical research as more Indigenous communities and organizations develop their own research protocols thereby contributing to Indigenous research paradigms and methodologies.

Sue also worked with the Chiefs of Ontario as its Environmental Coordinator facilitating, planning, and implementing the activities of its Environment Unit. Her work included providing environmental information to the First Nation leaders in Ontario and their communities on environmental initiatives such the waters, forestry, environmental assessments, contaminants, energy and species at risk. She has extensive involvement in negotiating with governments and providing policy analysis on government bills. She coordinated the development of the First Nations Environmental Assessment Toolkit for Ontario where she co-authored section three Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Assessments. She is appointed member of the national Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Sub-Committee for Species at Risk and co-chair on the Indigenous Advisory Committee to Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

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Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign

Sue continues to work with First Nation communities and Elders on environmental projects including land code development, watershed planning, source water protection, Anishinabek law development, and environmental management planning. She also advises on building sustainable homes with an exceptional R-value to cut high energy costs for First Nations to deal with high hydro costs. She has facilitated and co-facilitated several workshops and meetings including Chief and Council retreats, Chiefs of Ontario water initiatives, nuclear issues workshops, Elders workshops and Northern Ontario Medical School’s Indigenous Research Gathering. She also supports the work of Water First in its education and training efforts toward establishing meaningful partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Most recently, Sue has accepted a tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor in Indigenous Environmental Stewardship at the University of Guelph in the School of Environmental Sciences, Ontario Agricultural College, effective November 1, 2021. Sue will spearhead a comprehensive research program in the new undergraduate Bachelor of Indigenous Environmental Science and Practice program while teaching and mentoring undergraduate students with a focus on Indigenous students.

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