Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı
Sahtú Renewable Resources Board

2015 Literature Review and Interviews: Indigenous Ways of Knowing Boreal Caribou Populations Print Email

This project was conducted for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board, SRRB). It included a literature review and a series of interviews with experienced researchers and knowledge holders about Indigenous ways of knowing and monitoring boreal caribou.  Boreal caribou are listed as threatened in Canada and the Northwest Territories (NWT), and wildlife management organizations in the NWT are mandated to monitor population abundance and trends in order to make management planning decisions.

 Boreal caribou are an important animal for First Nations and Métis communities in almost all regions of the NWT.  Hunters and Elders have comprehensive Traditional Knowledge about past and current caribou populations, movements, health, habitat, and other topics.  In many Indigenous societies, this type of information is traditionally used in adaptive management processes.  Therefore Traditional, community, and Indigenous Knowledge can be of value for determining wildlife population abundance and trends, among many other topics, and a range of monitoring programs accommodate Indigenous Peoples or methods to some degree. 

The resulting report reviews approaches to understanding and developing Indigenous Knowledge and ways of knowing about wildlife populations that could have potential as monitoring methods for boreal caribou populations.  It details theoretical and methodological considerations for ENR, who plan on initiating a monitoring program for boreal caribou with NWT communities, and includes a discussion of limitations and challenges.  Several northern case studies are presented as examples of monitoring projects that are already underway, and a suite of eight potential monitoring measures or ‘indicators’ are introduced, including a consideration of their possible applicability for boreal caribou. While there is an emphasis on Traditional Knowledge systems of the north, literature and models for working with Indigenous ways of knowing from other parts of the world are also included in this review and report where relevant.

This report builds on the existing literature by proposing methods to develop a monitoring program for boreal caribou population abundance and trends in the NWT.  The authors recommend that ENR initiate a collaborative and iterative approach to develop regionally and culturally-appropriate monitoring approaches with interested communities across the NWT.  

The ideas presented in this report formed the basis for further work being done to develop a national monitoring strategy for boreal woodland caribou that would be inclusive of Indigenous ways of knowing.  The National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium (NBCKC) is a forum for knowledge sharing, generation, and mobilization. Members of the NBCKC represent provincial and territorial governments, Wildlife Management Boards, Indigenous Peoples and communities, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, and academic researchers.  Several representatives who are part of the NBCKC are also members of a parallel body known as the Indigenous Knowledge Circle (IKC). The IKC advocates for the respectful inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge, supports the transition towards Indigenous-led management to support the recovery of caribou, and, provides opportunities for learning about what is working and not working in Indigenous contexts.  In 2020 the IKC focused their efforts on further developing some of the ideas presented in the 2015 Indigenous Ways of Knowing Boreal Caribou Populations report and initiated the construction of a database of Indigenous-led caribou projects across Canada as one of a series of ‘tools’ to be added to a national ‘Caribou Monitoring Toolbox’. More on the work of the NBCKC and the IKC can be found at: https://www.cclmportal.ca/organization/national-boreal-caribou-knowledge-consortium.

Team Members


Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) of the Government of the Northwest Territories


  pdf Literature Review and Interviews: Indigenous Ways of Knowing Boreal Caribou Populations (1.12 MB)