Indigenous Knowledge Is A Treasure Chest For Arctic Partnerships

by Sabrina Heerema | Published: 08-May-23 | Last updated: 04-May-23 | Tags : Arctic community indigenous monitoring research | category: NEWS

We were fortunate to meet with Tero Mustonen, President of Snowchange Cooperative and recent winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, and capture an interview which we would like to share for their invaluable perspectives and advice on how scientific research and Indigenous Knowledge can better cooperate. 

Tero has been working for Snowchange for the past 22 years with Indigenous and local communities in the Arctic. Together with Johanna Roto he co-leads Arctic PASSION's work on creating eight innovative, user-driven Arctic environmental and Earth observation information services, including:

  1. Event database of community-based monitoring using oral histories, Indigenous Knowledge and Local Knowledge
  2. Pan-Arctic requirements-driven permafrost 
  3. State of the Arctic environment 
  4. Integrated fire risk management  (INFRA)
  5. Local atmospheric pollutant forecast 
  6. Improving safety for shipping in the polar seas 
  7. Community-based monitoring for Arctic marine climate change, noise pollution, and impacts on marine living resources
  8. Lake ice for Arctic climate and safety

Tero and Snowchange, together with Arctic community partners develop the first service together. 

Community-based monitoring in Arctic PASSION

In the first part fo the interview, Tero explains Arctic PASSION's work on community-based monitoring, its history in the Arctic, and how it provides unique, novel discoveries that highly complement scientific monitoring as well as filling gaps in current monitoring to address the massive fire events, permafrost thaw, ocean acidification, sea ice loss, species extinction, biodiversity loss and other challenges the Arctic is facing.

The uniqueness of Indigenous Knowledge

In the second part of the interview, Tero explains the importance of recognising different knowledge systems, co-creation of knowledge by scientists and Indigenous communities, the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in scientific research on climate change and the environment, and its uniqueness. 

As Tero states, "change has to come from those doing the Arctic monitoring, and involves forming relationships, listening, and adapting targets." We feel tremendously privileged to have a good relationship with six Indigenous communities that have consented to partner with us to co-create knowledge for the Arctic PASSION project and we appreciate the uniqueness of this knowledge. 

How Arctic research projects should communicate to policymakers

In the third part of the interview, Tero answers the question "how should Arctic PASSION be communicating with policymakers?" by advising the following approaches:

  • Focus on enabling direct Indigenous voices;
  • Addressing the unknown Arctic, a sentient landscape; 
  • Ensuring the project activities are translated into national government portfolios and decision-making

Some of the ways we are doing this in Arctic PASSION include highlighting Indigenous told stories of environmental observation in the Arctic, promoting co-creation of knowledge in all activities and by producing targeted science-policy outreach.

We appreciate having Tero as an advisor to our project and hope that his advice will also be useful for other Arctic research. 

Watch other Arctic PASSION interviews via our YouTube channel