Community-Based Monitoring as the practice of Indigenous governance: A case study of Indigenous-led water quality monitoring in the Yukon River Basin.

By Nicole Wilson, Edda Mutter, Jody Inkster, and Terre Satterfield


Indigenous peoples are increasingly developing Community-Based Monitoring programs to protect the waters and lands within their territories in response to multiple ecological and political stressors. Furthermore, CBM tends to focus on Indigenous peoples’ role as ‘knowledge holders.’ This paper explores CBM through a governance lens by understanding CBM as a strategy for the assertion of Indigenous sovereignty and jurisdiction. Research findings revealed that CBM is understood as both a method for generating data useful for decision-making and an expression of governance itself, rooted in understandings of stewardship, kinship and responsibility. Our findings also suggest that data quality and credibility, trust and legitimacy and relevance to decision contexts are key to mobilizing CBM data in relevant decision-making processes. We provide three recommendations to improve linkages between CBM programs and Indigenous governance: Indigenous governments must take a leading role in CBM programs; networked capacity between Indigenous governments can be built using a bridging organization; and CBM programs should be closely coupled with Indigenous environmental governance strategies. All research herein is collaborative and is based on our engagement with the Indigenous Observation Network – an Indigenous-led community-based water quality monitoring network involving Yukon and BC First Nations as well as Alaska Native Tribes. It is considered the largest Indigenous water quality network in the world and is coordinated by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council and the United States Geological Survey. Results are derived from interviews with twenty samplers and ten other stakeholders with attention to ways to better inform internal and external decision-making processes.

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