Sioux Valley takes inter-generational approach to climate change


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Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s Wipazoka Wakpa Climate Change and Environment working group held a special workshop for the community on Thursday to help tackle the effects of climate change at the local level.

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This article was published 13/12/2021 (465 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s Wipazoka Wakpa Climate Change and Environment working group held a special workshop for the community on Thursday to help tackle the effects of climate change at the local level.

Climate change and special project co-ordinator Cheyenne Ironman said the climate crisis is a growing and ongoing concern in the community — young people in high school and elders are united and interacting to create a powerful dialogue centred on the emergency.

“Everybody seems to be on the same page. We all agree that this is something important and we want to leave a better future for the [next generations],” Ironman said.

The workshop included speakers from the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and the Manitoba Climate Action Team providing insights on climate change from the local to the global level.

The severity of climate change needs to be taken seriously, she said, because the effects and impacts are already visible, and are expected to get worse over time.

“A lot of our community can point out what’s changing in the environment, but they don’t realize that that’s climate change. They don’t have that scientific terminology,” Ironman said. “It’s just bringing that awareness that this is part of something larger that is happening on a global scale.”

One of the major topics focused on was how climate change affects food production and the rising costs families face when it comes to buying groceries.

Wipazoka Wakpa Climate Change and Environment is working to enhance food sovereignty and security to combat these issues.

“We’re trying to think long-term. We’re trying to get to the point that if somebody wanted to get all of their groceries here [in Sioux Valley], how do we get there?”

One of the more noticeable changes in Sioux Valley has been wildlife sightings — some animals are no longer seen, while new animals like bears, cougars and moose are starting to be spotted in the area.

“All of these different changes are happening as a result of the weather changing, and over a long period of time how that impacts the whole ecosystem,” Ironman said.

Personal safety in the face of a changing climate is also of concern. Sioux Valley is facing the increasing threat of floods, droughts, tornadoes and other extreme weather events, Ironman said, and this has become all the more apparent in the last decade.

These changes are forcing them to think about the infrastructure that needs to be in place — especially because youth and elders are especially susceptible to the dangers of extreme weather such as heat stroke during a heat wave.

“That’s pretty scary,” Ironman said. “When you put it in those terms, it’s pretty serious, and we really need to be thinking about that in our own communities.”

She added Wipazoka Wakpa remains focused on doing tangible work in the community.

“We’re a self-governing community, and we have more authority to make decisions about our land and how we manage the land, and the agricultural practices that occur on our lands,” Ironman said. “When we talk about climate change, it’s not all bad. There’s a lot of opportunities there to create jobs, to employ people. We’re really trying to push our younger people to explore those opportunities and giving them exposure to these jobs that exist.”

Curt Hull, the project manager with Climate Change Connection and a member of the Manitoba Climate Action Team, said he appreciated having the opportunity to listen to the concerns and experiences of Sioux Valley community members. The Climate Action Team includes five non-profit organizations collaborating to focus on developing a document regarding resiliency and discussions about climate change in Manitoba.

The team published the document “Manitoba’s Road to Resilience” in early 2021, and now visiting communities to pass on knowledge included in the document and learn from the lived experience of community members.

“We can really start to understand better what individual perspective and community perspectives are with respect to climate change,” Hull said. “Our intention as the Climate Action team is to move forward in concert with communities to foster policy.”

The challenge communities face is they need to be able to feed themselves locally, heat buildings and move all goods and people without fossil fuels. Hull said this needs to be accomplished using electric resources and new energy.

“We don’t want to come into a community and say, ‘OK we’re going to do this.’ Instead, we want to understand, first of all, what the situation is, and then understand what the community would like to do so we can move forward into actually making that happen,” Hull said.

He added Road to Resilience includes specific ideas for steps communities could potentially take to combat climate change.

Durdana Islam, program manager with the Climate Action Team Road to Resilience Project, was impressed with the inter-generational knowledge transferring and collaboration between young people and elders in Sioux Valley.

“We have to feed people. We have to warm our houses. We have to transport people. And also, we have to generate electricity without burning fossil fuels,” Islam said. “How do we do that?”

There is a need to work with communities because the current phase of the Road to Resilience project will be working with 10 communities — five First Nation and five settler communities — sharing the message of their work to encourage participation.

“We want to learn from the community,” Islam said. “It’s learning from the community what they have seen in the past and what is been seeing as an impact of climate change … and how we can move forward as a community together.”

The community will choose what they need to see happen when it comes to climate change.

For the first phase, they will be working with the 10 communities. When they move into phase two, they will work with four communities providing 10 workshops based on community needs.

Communities can send a proposal to explain why they want to work together with the Climate Action Team.

Based on the feedback provided by communities, Islam said, the Climate Team will provide a plan on how they can implement changes in response to climate change.

“Community members are the best people to know what is needed in the community,” Islam said.


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