Wednesday 7
Pathways of Resilience in a Rapidly Changing Alaska
Berill Blair, Winslow Hansen
› 14:35 - 15:30 (55min)
› JOFFRE 1-4
Local perspectives on social and ecological changes in the Human-Rangifer Systems of North America.
Archana Bali  1@  , Gary Kofinas  1@  
1 : Dept of Humans & Environment and Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks  (IAB, UAF)  -  Website
University of Alaska Fairbanks P.O. Box 757500 Fairbanks, AK 99775 -  États-Unis

Our paper focuses on North American social-ecological systems comprised of humans, caribou (Rangifer tarandus), and the interactions between them. Caribou are the most numerous large terrestrial mammal in the Arctic, and the most important terrestrial resource for many indigenous communities. These communities maintain strong nutritional, cultural and spiritual ties with caribou and identify themselves as the ‘caribou people'. While these human-caribou systems have persisted for thousands of years, they are currently facing rapid and cumulative climate, land-use, and social changes. The paper examines how the Caribou People perceive the importance of social-ecological changes in terms of their ability to lead a productive and healthy life.

We conducted a participatory videography project in six different communities across North America (Figure1) to document community members' observations of change and their concerns about ecological, cultural, spiritual and nutritional aspects of their changing relationship with caribou, and their environment ( The participating communities selected thirty-five out of total 100 interviews for this study. The range of conditions in communities and their observations of change provided us a basis from which to explore the following questions from the community member's perspectives: What are the implications of recent changes on these communities; What are the perceived opportunities and challenges; and How are they responding to the changing conditions?

While the six participating communities differed in the caribou herds on which they subsist, respective status of their local herds, the threats to the herd's critical habitats, and therefore the challenges faced by the community, our interviews reveal that certain aspects of the traditional culture are persistent, such as nutritional needs for caribou meat and food sharing within family groups or with elders. For others, traditional practices have transformed to embrace modern systems, such as in the methods of hunting and the uses for caribou products. Community responses to changing food security ranged from passive adaptation (e.g. going farther than the traditional hunting areas to find caribou) to pro-active transformations (hiring hunters to procure caribou for entire community).

While ecosystem changes as a result of climate change are often considered by scientists as primary driver of social and ecological vulnerability in the Arctic, interviews with the caribou people reveal that local communities had a more vague sense of concern about the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, and were much more concerned with social changes. These include the challenges of assimilation into modern society, threats from developmental activities in homelands, incidental loss of traditional knowledge and lack of economic opportunities. With respect to adaptation to change, most communities voiced a need for data and information from researchers, biologists, and politicians for increasing their response capacity.

This paper will be presented in the session entitled Pathways of Resilience in a Rapidly Changing Alaska. Our findings make an important contribution to understanding local perceptions about the impacts of climate change in relation to changes resulting from economic development and social conditions on caribou and the indigenous communities that rely on them.

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