In Ugpi’ganjig, also known as Eel River Bar First Nation, Blueberry Point is predicted to be underwater due to sea level rise by the year 2100. To address future sea level rise, the Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council is sharing a vision for aquatic resources management that combines Mi’kmaq ecological knowledge as well as scientific research.
Sea level rise in Ugpi’ganjig will increase the vulnerability of infrastructure and potentially harm drinking water supplies from saltwater intrusion, backwater from storms and overflowing sewage systems.
The coastal community is located in a low-lying area affected by tides in northern New Brunswick. Home to marshlands, most of the community is about six metres above sea level. Sea level rise is estimated to affect 50 homes and buildings in the area by 2050.
On June 29, Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council’s biologist Carole Anne Gillis spoke at a webinar about sea level rise effects on Ugpi’ganjig.
The Council is using remote sensing data to examine flooding scenarios. Their tools and resources include drones, Lidar, the Adaptation Planning Guidebook for New Brunswick Communities and the Coastal Community Adaptation Tree.
Participatory mapping is also a significant tool the council uses to discuss green infrastructure and adaptation methods with homeowners.
In addition to using remote sensing data and participatory mapping, the communities has taken steps to plan new residential development in preparation for future sea level rise and climate scenarios.
The Council is using a two-eyed seeing approach for their sea level rise adaptation planning. According to Gillis, “Two-eyed seeing is learning to see from one eye, with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and through the other eye with the strengths of western knowledge and ways of knowing. So it’s equally looking at the system, or ecosystem, or sea level rise with both knowledge systems.”
“Mi’kmaq (Mi’gmaw) knowledge doesn’t have to be traditional, or old information, it can be very contemporary, it can be something that you saw yesterday,” said Gillis.
“It’s really from your experiences of being on the land and in contact with the environment, and that’s also information that has been passed down. Most of the information has been passed down orally through stories, legends, learned experiences, observation and spiritual teachings. It relates to the identity, culture and heritage of the Mi’kmaq people,” explained Gillis.
Cortney MacDonnell is an environmental action reporter with RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment), a research project based at the University of New Brunswick.