Literature Review: Local and Traditional Knowledge in the Peel River Watershed

  • Tracking Change: Local and Traditional Knowledge in Watershed Governance

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  • The Peel River Basin is an important trans-boundary watershed that sits within the jurisdictions of the Government of the Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories. The watershed is recognized internationally as an important area of ecological biodiversity, but it is also home to many Gwich’in as well as northern Tutchone peoples, and is thus an important landscape with many integrated socio-economic, cultural, and ecological values. The Peel River Watershed is a mountainous area that boasts numerous tributaries, such as Bonnetplume, which are currently valued and recognized by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples for their beauty, pristine waters, and biodiversity. Unlike many other sub-basins of the Mackenzie, the Peel River Watershed has, until recently, been little disturbed by resource development. The recent decision of the Yukon Government to open up the area for mining exploration and development has thus been met with significant concern and opposition by those living in the region and internationally. Early ethnographic work describes the importance of the Peel to local Indigenous communities, including the importance of many of the rivers as transportation corridors and the fish within these rivers as critical to the food security of families who lived and traveled throughout the area. A significant body of local and traditional knowledge has been documented by the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute that stems from the livelihood practices, observations and experiences of the Teetł'it t Gwich’in peoples, including place names, ethnographic material. The Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, also has also produced many reports which speak to the health of the aquatic ecosystem. With growing recognition of the importance of the Peel River Watershed as a critical area of biodiversity, there are more opportunities for local Indigenous communities from both the Yukon and Northwest Territories to document their knowledge of this area. However, many gaps exist with respect to the availability of documented local and traditional knowledge in respect of all indicators of aquatic ecosystem health defined in this report.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International