Athabaskan peoples live in Alaska and northern Canada. Notwithstanding huge social and economic changes in interior Alaska and northern Canada in recent decades, Athabaskan peoples continue to rely on barren-ground caribou for traditional food, cultural continuity and spiritual sustenance. The 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, chaired by the United States and approved by all eight Arctic states, projects a significant decline in the numbers of barren-ground caribou as a result of climate change. Indeed, this species is a bellwether of the impacts and effects of climate change throughout northern North America and is a determinant of the health and welfare of Athabaskan communities. As a "Permanent Participant" to the eight-nation Arctic Council, the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC) is uniquely placed to connect local and community concerns related to caribou with northern and national governments, and international agencies. The purpose of this project is to make connections between the local, national and international levels so that community-based perspectives, perceptions and concerns can inform national and international policies and decisions.
Under this funding application, the AAC will conduct local activities that will build on recent and ongoing work to develop climate change community assessment tools; assess local community needs and perceptions; document the effects of climate change including transboundary impacts; build capacity amongst indigenous peoples to monitor climate change; and incorporate adaptation strategies into community development and ecosystem management plans. This project is, in part, a follow-on and follow-up to an International Polar Year project on caribou and community resilience in northern Canada completed in 2011.
Plans are currently underway for AAC to host a week long workshop in Summer 2012 with a three-fold purpose: 1) to inform AAC members of work at the international level and to get feedback on current activities; 2) to gather traditional knowledge and community perspectives on climate and ecosystem changes; and 3) to hold land-based training sessions on traditional food harvesting and cultural practices to support the transference of traditional knowledge, culture and history.