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The history of scientists in Indigenous communities is fraught. There’s even a joke about it among Inuit: “How many people in an Inuit family? Five: a mother, a father, two kids and an anthropologist.”

Scientists have a habit of parachuting into communities, gathering what information they can from the people, the land or the wildlife, then vanishing without a trace — taking what is to them “data” but to the people who live there is millennia of accumulated traditional knowledge.

“We’ve been studied to death,” says Heiltsuk First Nation council member Jess Housty, quoting elders in her community.

That’s changing thanks to a few scientists and Indigenous communities who have struck a new mutual understanding. The result is changing how science is done.

“It’s finding the questions that you have in common,” says Aerin Jacob, a conservation scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Where’s the overlap between [questions] communities want to have answered and what is your expertise?”

But doing research this way opens up all kinds of ethical and intellectual questions: how can science remain independent? Where does science cross into advocacy? And what are Indigenous communities getting out of the bargain?

Check out Jimmy Thomson’s new piece, and learn — as these scientists have — about a new kind of caribou, whales that offer themselves to the whalers and how bears and people live side-by-side.

Plus, keep scrolling for so much more this week!
 

Emma Gilchrist
Editor-in-chief

The pit of San Pedro: the life and death of a Canadian mine in Mexico

By Amanda Annand

The town of Cerro de San Pedro was named after an iconic hill that — after two decades of mining — has been transformed into an open pit. As the Canadian-owned mine moves into its closure phase, the community is grappling with the legacy of both development and disruption left in its wake. Read more.

'She didn't know to be afraid'

Bear 148 was raised by a good mother who introduced her to the landscape around Banff National Park like a pro. She taught her cubs to navigate train tracks and traffic jams full of people wielding cell phones.

Thanks to her mom, Bear 148 was perfectly competent to live in close quarters with humans. But ... yes, there’s a but. Listen to our new audio documentary, Bear 148.

Tailings dam failures linked to hefty bonuses for mine managers: report

By Judith Lavoie

Study of four catastrophic dam collapses — including one at B.C.’s Mount Polley mine — finds bonus schemes encourage managers to take more risks in the name of short-term profits. Read more.

Meet the scientists embracing traditional Indigenous knowledge

By Jimmy Thomson

How some First Nations have taken control of the research being done in their territories — and how it's shaping the future of science. Read more.

Meet the narluga

By Emma Gilchrist

We just couldn't resist writing a story on this news! Scientists have confirmed a rare whale skull discovered by an Inuit hunter 30 years ago in Greenland is a hybrid calf of a beluga father and a narwhal mother. Read more.

Climate scientists leaving Canada due to lack of funding

By Sarah Cox

Canada has been a leader in climate research but a new report finds the country is suffering from a ‘bleed of expertise’ as funding dries up for key programs. Read more.

B.C. government delays endangered caribou plan as herds dwindle

By Sarah Cox

As southern mountain caribou populations fall, the B.C. government has announced a temporary moratorium on new resource development in part of the Peace River region but already-permitted logging and road-building will continue. Read more.

What we're listening to
Hat tip to our independent Canadian journalism friends over at CANADALAND. Arshy Mann hosts COMMONS: CRUDE, which tells the story of Canada's addiction to oil. Pssst: the latest episode is about the conspiracy theory that there's a billionaire plot to destroy Alberta's economy.
A note from a Narwhal
Also over on Twitter, Moira Donovan said she's "Really enjoying the @thenarwhalca podcast Bear 148 from @Mollyaudio ⁠— a deeply reported and thoughtful investigation into how bears navigate the world we've created for them. Among lots of other things, it's making me think a lot harder about letting my dog off leash 🐶 🐻" Thanks, Moira!
Traditional media got your friends all ... ? We've got you covered. Defy the derp by sending them our newsletter sign-up link  😉
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The Narwhal · Suite 634 · 185 - 911 Yates St. · Victoria, BC V8V 4Y9 · Canada