Climate Monitoring through Traditional Harvesting

Traditional harvesters are the original stewards of the land. Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have been making observations about the weather, air, land, water, plants, and animals for survival. Today’s traditional harvesters are the community’s current environmental monitors and play an integral role in their community’s climate monitoring initiative.

For example, Shannon Landrie-Crossland is a traditional Métis woman harvester from Saskatchewan. She is the daughter of Gail Trottier and Dennis Landrie who are the descendants of Charles Trottier (Ursule Laframboise), Antoine Trottier (Angelique Laframboise) and Moise Landry (Philomene Laframboise) of The Trottier Hunting Brigade. Her family connection is deeply rooted in the lands of the Round Prairie Settlement, SK and extends as far back as the 1850s. Her family names of Landrie, Trottier, and Caron are present in all three-land use occupational periods within Round Prairie: Overwintering, Homesteading, and Current.

She currently practices her traditional harvesting activities within her traditional land use area in the Round Prairie Settlement, SK. She has the honor and privilege of sharing her knowledge with her family and other community members about traditional harvesting activities such as birch water harvesting. During the harvest, she makes many observations such as:

  • what the weather is doing in the spring such as the temperature and snow conditions
  • when the birch sap is running and when the trees start to leaf out
  • the health of the trees such as the impacts of drought, fire and insect infestations
  • the quantity and quality of the sap such as how much and for how long as well as what it looks, smells, and tastes like
  • when other plants are sprouting and what birds and other animals are returning or waking up.

“Every year the challenge is the timing of the harvest due to climate change impacts. Climate change impacts the growth and health of vegetation. Naturally occurring weather patterns have an impact as well.”

Shannon Landrie-Crossland

In addition, Shannon connects with fellow harvesters and her Elders about their experiences and how things have changed from generation to generation. She also involves her son and grandchildren and teaches them the traditional harvesting practices and traditional land use practices. In the resources section below, you will find a brief tutorial on birch water harvesting that Shannon has generously put together to share with other harvesters and harvesters-to-be.

As such, traditional harvesters are a tremendous resource for their community. There are many tools that can been used to help document their observations so that the information can be used by the community to better understand and adapt to the changing climate. These tools range from low tech methods such as using a fieldbook or field form and a pencil to higher tech approaches such as using a GPS unit and monitoring app. Another way to document the knowledge of traditional harvesters is through a community traditional knowledge study which incorporates interviews, harvesting data, and mapping of traditional harvesting areas. In recognition of their efforts, many communities will provide honoraria to their traditional harvesters for documenting and sharing their knowledge.

By tapping into the activities and knowledge of their traditional harvesters, communities can benefit from a wealth of information while supporting a strong connection to the land and culture for generations to come.