Human Ecology

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 533-545

First online:

Local Knowledge, Subsistence Harvests, and Social–Ecological Complexity in James Bay

  • Claude PeloquinAffiliated withNatural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba Email author 
  • , Fikret BerkesAffiliated withNatural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba

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Ecosystems are complex and difficult to predict and control. Western science-based societies have tended to simplify ecosystems to manage them. Some indigenous and other rural groups who interact closely with a given resource system seem to have developed practices that are adapted to live with complexity. This paper examines how indigenous Cree hunters in James Bay, subarctic Canada, understand and deal with ecological complexity and dynamics, and how their understanding of uncertainty and variability shape subsistence activities. The focus is the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) hunt which is adaptive to shifts and changes in local and regional conditions. Ecological understandings of Cree hunters allow them to account for and deal with a very large number of variables at multiples scales. The Cree deal with these variables qualitatively, an approach consistent with some scientific ways of dealing with complexity, such as adaptive management and fuzzy logic.


Indigenous knowledge Traditional ecological knowledge Cree people Complexity Fuzzy logic Adaptive management Canada goose James Bay Subarctic Hunting