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Local Knowledge and Changing Subsistence Strategies in James Bay, Canada

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Human Ecology

Abstract

The description of ecosystems necessarily reduces their complexity to a few measurable and controllable variables. Environmental monitoring practices of some indigenous and rural societies are significant in this context. In this paper, we examine the ways in which an indigenous people understand and deal with complexity, using the example of Cree hunters of James Bay in the Canadian eastern subarctic. Our unit of analysis is the integrated social-ecological system (Berkes and Folke 1998) or the coupled human-environment system. We investigate social-ecological change in the goose hunt, which provides a resource of prime importance to the Wemindji Cree people of James Bay. First, we establish the context of the relationship between complex systems thinking and indigenous knowledge, reviewing how the two have been linked in the literature, especially the case for presenting indigenous knowledge as a holistic approach with parallels to adaptive management and fuzzy logic.

The original article Local Knowledge, Subsistence Harvests and Social-Ecological Complexity in James Bay appeared in Human Ecology Vol. 37, No. 4, August 2009.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Wemindji-Paakumshumwaau Project: Environment, Development and Sustainability in a James Bay Cree Community www.wemindjiprotectedarea.org.

  2. 2.

    For more details on the methodological approach, see Peloquin (2007, pp. 44-58).

  3. 3.

    For more details on the climate-related aspects of this study, see Peloquin (2007, pp. 99-103), Berkes (2008, pp. 172-174).

  4. 4.

    Postglacial isostatic uplift is the slow rebounding of the land after the release pressure of glacial ice. Near Wemindji, the land is currently ‘growing back’ (as the Cree put it) at a rate of approximately 1 m per century.

  5. 5.

    The reasons for the decline of eelgrass in Hudson and James Bay have not been resolved but are thought to be associated with changes in water temperature, salinity, and turbidity, with impacts on the ecology of waterfowl, especially brant geese but also Canada geese and ducks (Short 2008).

  6. 6.

    Each box in the figure represents one category that was mentioned by at least one participant in the study (usually by more). Arrows linking the boxes are relationships, observed or hypothesized, among the different categories of factors. This diagram is conservative in that many other links are plausible among these factors but they were not explicitly mentioned.

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Correspondence to Claude Peloquin .

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Peloquin, C., Berkes, F. (2010). Local Knowledge and Changing Subsistence Strategies in James Bay, Canada. In: Bates, D., Tucker, J. (eds) Human Ecology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5701-6_18

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