International comparative study: incorporation of indigenous approaches to guardianship and stewardship in Canada’s resource management policy framework(s)

Lessons learned from Canada

This project reviewed and evaluated international examples where indigenous environmental and economic approaches were incorporated into a resource management policy framework.

Project leader: Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development

International examples of EBM

This project completed in early 2017.

We have reviewed and evaluated international examples where indigenous environmental and economic approaches were incorporated into a resource management policy framework similar to the EBM concept.

Our aim was to identify any processes and frameworks that have been developed in response to utilising indigenous knowledge in the management of natural resources (whether land or sea) within environmental and biological constraints. The international examples we investigated were two examples of EBM undertaken in Canada. Canada was of particular interest as it has a similar colonial history with an indigenous population, similar environmental concerns, and has been actively working in this indigenous knowledge space. The two distinct, yet linked, examples of resource management and economic development that use EBM in a way that incorporates indigenous perspectives and aspirations were both from British Columbia: the Marine Plan Partnership for the Pacific North Coast and the Great Bear Initiative.

To investigate these case studies we:

  • Did background information research (a literature review)
  • Engaged with the First Nation peoples who were involved with the Marine Plan Partnership, an EBM model that applied indigenous knowledge alongside western science


Tiakiwai S-J, Kilgour JT and Whetu A (2017) Indigenous perspectives of ecosystem-based management and co-governance in the Pacific Northwest: lessons for Aotearoa. AlterNative 13(2):69

Final report

In the final report, researchers identified 5 elements to consider for developing EBM that successfully incorporates Māori perspectives and aspirations:

  1. Power dynamics – Canada’s ‘enabling’ legal framework supported transformative shifts in policy making, engagement between First Nations and government, and decision-making.
  2. Jurisdiction – Any party that has jurisdiction over the location, resource and/or activities should be involved in developing EBM otherwise there is a risk of conflict and ineffective co-governance.
  3. Adaptive management – ‘Learning by doing’, ie an iterative process that feeds back into future decision-making and adapts to uncertainty and/or changes in the ecosystem.
  4. Agency – Ensuring indigenous people are able to participate in decision-making.
  5. Recognition of indigenous knowledge – Acknowledging traditional ecological knowledge as a legitimate body of knowledge, and using it alongside Western science through shared governance and participative bottom-up planning processes and monitoring.

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