Indigenous Peoples Day 2020: Contributions of Indigenous Peoples for Freshwater Health

June 21 2020 marks National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First NationsInuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples.

According to the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, 977,230 people in Canada identified as being of First Nations heritage, a growth of 39.3% since 2006. There are 634 First Nations in Canada, speaking more than 50 distinct languages.

FN map
Map of Indigenous communities across Canada. Source: Indigenous Services Canada: Community Lands Development Directorate, January 2020. Click on map to view full-size.

Partnerships with STREAM

STREAM is fortunate to have forged several partnerships with Indigenous communities across Canada, with the common goal of gaining vital biodiversity data. The STREAM project wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of Indigenous communities. Data-deficiencies, particularly in remote regions, have always been a large barrier for a nationwide understanding of freshwater health. Many of Canada’s important but little-researched waterways are in lands where Indigenous peoples have lived for generations, and therefore these partnerships with Indigenous peoples are very special.

STREAM participants
Pie chart of the different individuals who took part in STREAM training in 2019. Data provided by Living Lakes Canada.

During our 2019 training season, nearly a quarter of participants were from Indigenous communities. This highlights the considerable representation of Indigenous Peoples in this nationwide project.

Prof. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, STREAM project lead of University of Guelph’s Department of Integrative Biology and Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, stated:

“These communities are well aware of the potential issues affecting their environment and they want timely and comprehensive access to biodiversity information especially for freshwater biomonitoring. We can provide that using cutting-edge metabarcoding techniques developed at U of G.”

STREAM 2019 Data Collection

In 2019, STREAM partnered with the following Indigenous communities to collect over 50 samples from watershed in British Columbia:

The success of our partnerships with Indigenous Peoples is a fantastic example of the data and relationships that can be achieved when there is collaboration with Indigenous community groups.

We hope for 2020 and 2021 that we can create new partnerships with Indigenous communities, particularly across central and eastern Canada, so we can continue to create a better understand of freshwater health, together.

To all of the Indigenous Peoples who have contributed their valuable time, expertise and knowledge for the STREAM project: thank you!

Word Art

To find a list of events for National Indigenous Peoples Day near you, visit the Government of Canada website.

To read the University of Guelph’s press release on STREAM’s partnerships with Indigenous communities, visit the UofG website here.

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