Institut Polaire de recherche Paul Emile Victor
Monday 9 February 2009, by Sylvie Blangy
Aboriginal ecotourism, environmental and economic changes, livelihood and traditional knowledge; a comparative analysis between the caribou Inuit of Baker Lake in Nunavut and the Sami reinder herders of Övre Soppero in Northern Sweden
Source of Funding:
IPEV, Institut Polaire de recherche Paul Emile Victor Location
Arctic North Canada, Nunavut, Baker Lake, Nunavut
Arctic North Scandinavia, Sapmi, Övre Soppero, Sweden
Duration 2 years until january 2010
This project aims at understanding how Aboriginal tourism can contribute to the well being of northern communities, preserve and enhance their traditional cultures, sustain their natural resources, and help community members face the challenges of climate change and economic dependency. It is based on the hypothesis that northern communities in different geographic regions face comparable challenges and that a comparative analysis between such communities will provide new insights on the possible ways to face them. For this, we selected 2 communities, the Inuit Inland Caribou from Baker Lake in Nunavut and the Sami Reindeer Herder of Övre Soppero of Northern Sweden that share a traditional livelihood based on the same species Rangifer tarandus and similar challenges despite the differences in their ecological and socio economic context. Collaborative research and social action tools will be used to bridge scientific and community based knowledge to explore future scenarios and models and nurture an Artic aboriginal ecotourism network of practitioners.
Inuit and Sami communities are facing major environmental and economic changes due to global warming, petroleum and mineral exploration and extraction, hydroelectric development, atmospheric transport of contaminant, timber harvesting. The disturbances caused by climate changes may increase in frequency and severity (Tews J. 2007) and will have a major impact on High Arctic and sub Arctic ecosystems in the future. This development may adversely affect populations of reindeer/caribou which are the basis of subsistence economics of so many northern indigenous peoples (Wollfe SA, 2000. The life style of caribou people and reindeer herders who are dependant on these resources will be especially affected.
Facing these challenges, the caribou hunters and reindeer herders have similar concerns; sustain their traditional lifestyle, generate new jobs for the young ones, preserve the knowledge of the elders, regain and recapture their own culture and language.
For this project, we selected two communities that share an ability to explore scenarios of change, a willingness to work in partnership with a team of researchers and can claim achievements in developing innovative packages and tours based on Inuit and Sami culture. In Ovre Soppero, in Northern Sweden, 90% of the population is Sami and still herds reindeers. Baker Lake in Nunavut, is the only Inland Inuit (Inuit Nunamiut) community. Living away from the coast they strongly depend on caribou for food and other resources.
Some attempts have been made to assess how climate change will affect the sustainability of Arctic villages over the next 40 years and explore possible future scenarios and models by bringing scientific and community knowledge together. Alternative "tourism" scenarios have been briefly studied and communities have expressed a strong interest in developing them further. (Kruse J. 2004, www.taiga.net/sustain). The International Polar Year is supporting several research projects on the cultural, historical, and social processes that shape the resilience and sustainability of circumpolar human societies, but none of them addresses sustainable tourism issues extensively. In the frame of the IPY no 151 "PPS Arctic Impacts of a changing treeline", Nancy Doubleday from Carleton University coordinates 3 projects "Photos and Plant Through Time", "Caribou and Plants" and "Food Choice" and will link issues of environmental and climate change to livelihoods and health and well being of northern peoples. Sylvie Blangy (Université Paul Valery, Montpellier), currently her visiting scientist, is funded on a EU DG research fellowship and studies aboriginal tourism, biodiversity and land management in partnership with Arctic communities and in a collaborative approach. With the Sami of Övre Soppero, Sylvie developed several pilot projects and products (summer treks, "on the migration route of the reindeers", cultural immersion stays in the village based on reindeer herding activities).
Other connections can be made with IPY projects and collaborations can be strengthened with projects such as IPY KARMA project on caribou and reindeer and IPY LUPOG on land use impact.
This project intends:
• To improve our knowledge and understanding on what aboriginal tourism means in the Arctic regions of Canada and in the Sub arctic regions of Europe;
- To analyze if and how existing Aboriginal tourism contributes to the well being of the northern communities, preserves and enhances their traditional cultures, sustains their natural resources, and helps community members face the challenges of climate change and economic dependency;
- To study how traditional knowledge, past and contemporary livelihoods, current social and economical contexts can foster new tour operators and nurture new ecotourism packages;
• To develop new scenarios and models of sustainable tourism that are likely to sustain the well being of local people and preserve natural resources and cultures;
• To further explore, test and promote collaborative and PAR tools developed in the frame of the EU funded projects and to design a specific methodological approach for Aboriginal planning and mapping for the Northern Communities.
This research will in addition help advance relationships across discipline and gather knowledge based both on western science and local knowledge through a bottom up approach. It also intents to strengthen nascent research collaborations in the Arctic between Canadian and French partners.
Last, but not least challenge, it hopes to promote direct collaborations and exchanges between Inuit and Sami communities on these questions that could be the starting point of a network and a community of practice in Aboriginal tourism across the Arctic.
Outcomes are both theoretical and applied. From a theoretical perspective for example, it is critical to examine how Aboriginal tourism has contributed to Aboriginal autonomy and overall community health and wellness. From an applied perspective, collaboration among the stakeholders can produce new strategies for Aboriginal tourism development based on lessons learned from the stakeholders’ collective experiences. This will help to begin to position northern Aboriginal tourism for greater success.
The IPEV project will build on existing collaborations and help strengthen them over the ocean. Project funding requested from IPEV will support part of the expenses of this research project. The other part is covered by the EU MCO research grant and the IPY PPS research program. Some additional source of funding will be applied to Nunavut Government, SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada’s federal funding agency) and DIAND (Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development).