Learning from the water: Building relational accountability in water governance through Community-Based Research with water and Indigenous peoples

Authors: Nicole Wilson*, University of British Columbia, Deborah McGregor*, , Rachel Arsenault, Laurentian University, Joanne Nelson, University of British Columbia
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Water Resources and Hydrology, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Indigenous water governance, Community-Based Research, Relational Accountability, Decolonizing, Relationships
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Emerging strategies developed by Indigenous governments are at the forefront of water governance in Canada. This is due in part to the growing acknowledgement of Indigenous rights and self-determination, but also stems from the relational accountability Indigenous peoples have with water. Relational accountability is recognizing water as a living entity and accepting the need to respect and protect water as a sacred responsibility. Community-based research (CBR) is increasingly used to support these water governance initiatives. In this paper, we explore how the growing literature and practice around Indigenous water governance informs consideration of the processes that support and constrain relational accountability in CBM. We propose that the water itself can teach scholars of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds about relational accountability in water governance. In other words, CBM can benefit from viewing water as a teacher, healer, and as a relative as well as engaging methods consistent with the principles and practices of Indigenous water governance which includes respect, responsibility, ceremony, and more. Furthermore, we explore the challenges highlighted by ontological conflict with colonial and capitalist views of water and how the practice of CBM can be employed to decolonize research relationships.

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