Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation’s Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative

What’s Changing?

For decades Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation (ANSN) and its approximately 2200 members, located in Treaty Six Territory, have lived without access to safe, clean, and locally sourced drinking water. Their local water supply Wakâ Mne (God’s Lake), also known as Lac Ste. Anne, AB, has experienced accelerated water quality decline as the pressures of climate change, industrial agriculture, mining, forestry, urbanization, illegal dumping, and recreation remain unrelenting. More recently, ANSN has begun pumping treated water from Stony Plain, AB (50 km away) to supply community members with potable water, which represents a positive step toward a healthier community. On the other hand, piping water nearly 50 km also represents a “silver bullet” solution that fundamentally ignores climate change and systemic misuse of the natural resources within ANSN traditional territory, which has ultimately brought ANSN to a point in time where they no longer can sustain themselves or practice their culture as promised in Treaty 6 (August 28, 1876).

Guiding Principles

ANSN strives to live in harmony and respect the Creator and all creations. ANSN is committed to our Isga beliefs and will utilize every resource that the Creator has bestowed upon us to empower our people, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Declining water quality in our traditional territory is a symptom of both human pressure and climate change, therefore it is our responsibility, as protectors of creation, to mobilize our traditional knowledge and western scientific skillset to force change in nation-to-nation relations, policy, and public attitudes for the benefit of all creations.

Project Description

Our initiative is the “Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative”. The initiative was founded and is led by Dr. Hughie Jones (ANSN community member, PhD. Soil Science 2019, University of British Columbia), who identified a lack of capacity within his community to monitor environmental processes, climate, and environmental pollutants from industrial sources. In early 2019, Dr. Jones secured multi-year funding through the Indigenous Community Climate Based Monitoring Program (April 2019- March 2022). The focus of the Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative is to:

  1. Monitor climate, water quality, and greenhouse gas fluxes (i.e., carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and water vapour (H20)) from Wakâ Mne to quantify the impact of climate and water quality change impact Wakâ Mne “breathing” (via GHG fluxes).
  2. Document, archive and share traditional knowledge held by ANSN elders and knowledge holders related to climate/environmental degradation and change to empower indigenous culture to inform future strategies aimed at adaptation and mitigation.

Methodology – Western Science

The Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative uses various methodologies to continuously monitor climate and environment. Perhaps the most interesting monitoring technique used in the initiative is the eddy covariance technique.

More Information about Eddy Covariance

Eddy covariance (EC) allows humans to monitor how ecosystems “breathe”. EC is the global standard used by biometeorologists to continuously monitor ecosystem-scale fluxes of gases (e.g., CO2, CH4, Nitrous Oxide (N20), H20) to study biogeochemical processes within ecosystems. For example, installation of eddy covariance (CO2 and H20), climate and soil instrumentation in a trembling aspen (Populus tremuloidies) forest in northern Saskatchewan, for multiple decades, produced novel datasets that changed our understanding of how trembling aspen carbon (photosynthesis and respiration) and water (e.g., evapotranspiration) balances are impacted by climate change. To find more information and access existing EC datasets, please visit: ( The eddy covariance technique can be used in forest, agricultural, aquatic (freshwater and marine), wetland, mining, industrial and urban ecosystems (Black et al., 1996; Schrier-Uijl et al., 2011; Rock et al., 2017; Jones et al., 2017; Baldocchi et al., 2018). Refer to references below.

In the Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative, we are using the EC technique to monitor GHG fluxes to understand lake 1) photosynthesis and respiration, 2) methane release and 3) evaporation. The datasets produced through the initiative will help us 1) understand the current state of local water resources in Western Canada, 2) model how lake ecosystems will respond to climate change and upstream pollution and 3) inform watershed-scale policy development aimed at preserving water resources in Western Canada.

Methodology – Traditional Knowledge

The Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative has focused on documenting the perspectives, opinions, experiences, and knowledge of ANSN elders and youth through podcast-style interviews. To perform high quality interviews, Kateri Jones (ANSN community member, ANSN Environmental Manager and Videographer) has devoted many months to creating a mobile studio complete with lighting, video cameras, microphones, interview questions and protocols to consistently grow the initiative’s capacity to document indigenous perspectives. Since Indigenous voices are mis- and under-represented within Canadian culture the initiative aims to release full length interviews on social media (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) to champion indigenous voices and change public discourse surrounding indigenous culture, livelihood and indigenous peoples’ imminent struggle with climate change and environmental degradation. Some of the topics our team has been focusing on in interviews include, but are not limited to:

  • Residential schools
  • Traditional Food systems
  • Environmental degradation
  • Culture (song, ceremony, community, food, and family)
  • Nation-to-nation relations
  • Climate change
  • Racism
  • Paths forward
  • History
  • Colonization
  • Agriculture
  • Language

In addition to local traditional knowledge and environmental data collection, the Wakâ Mne – Science and Culture Initiative team is passionate about assisting other First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities establish and operate independent climate monitoring stations capable of supporting long-term environmental monitoring. Below are links to videos and documentation to assist in planning, designing, and constructing automated monitoring stations.


Eddy Covariance References

  • Baldocchi, D., Chu, H., Reichstein, M. (2018). Inter-annual variability of net and gross ecosystem carbon fluxes: A review. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 249, 520-533.
  • Black, T.A., den Hartog, G., Neumann, H.H., Blanken, P.D., Yang, P.C., Russell, C., Nesic, Z., Lee, X., Chen, S.G., Staebler, R., Novak, M.D., 1996. Annual cycles of water vapour and carbon dioxide fluxes in and above a boreal aspen forest. Global Change Biology, 2, 219–229.
  • Jones, H., Black, T., Jassal, R., Nesic, Z., Grant, N., Bhatti, J., Sidder, D. (2017). Water balance, surface conductance and water use efficiency of two young hybrid-poplar plantations in Canada’s aspen parkland. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 246, 256-271.
  • Rock, L., McNaughton, C., Black, A., Nesic, Z., Whiticar, M., Grant, N., Jassal, R., Lahvis, M., Davies, C., DeVaull, G., Shevalier, M., Nightingale, M., Mayer, B. (2017).  Assessment of CO2 levels prior to injection across the Quest Sequestration Lease Area. Energy Procedia, 114, 2836-2846.
  • Schrier-Uijl, A. P., Veraart, A. J., Leffelaar, P. A., Berendse, F., & Veenendaal, E. M. (2011). Release of CO₂ and CH₄ from lakes and drainage ditches in temperate wetlands. Biogeochemistry, 102(1/3), 265-279.