, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 859-876
Date: 20 Jul 2010

Indigenous culture and adaptation to climate change: sockeye salmon and the St’át’imc people

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This paper provides a culturally-informed understanding of the impacts of climate change on a highly important subsistence activity that has been practiced by First Nations of central British Columbia for thousands of years. The paper begins with a review of the science regarding sockeye salmon and climate change. It discusses harvest patterns, and how the timing of runs has changed. A survey was conducted by the first author regarding St’át’imc traditional fishing at a historic site on the Fraser River, in 2005. The results show that the impacts of climate change are apparent to those conducting traditional fishing practices, in terms of changed timing and abundance of salmon runs. These perceptions fit closely with the information available from scientists and management agencies. These changes are highly problematic for the St’át’imc, in that the preservation method (drying) is tied to seasonal weather patterns. The whole cultural setting, and the relevance of salmon for subsistence would be highly altered by climate change that leads to changes in the timing and abundance of sockeye salmon. The paper discusses mitigation and adaptation alternatives, but also indicates the scope of these seem limited, given the resource systems and the context of these activities.