On December 11th, 2023, in celebration of International Mountain Day, Eco Canada and the Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) collaborated to host a webinar titled "Braiding Knowledges to Restore Mountain Ecosystems." The event featured CMN Co-Research Directors Dr. Paulina Johnson, an Assistant Professor of Sociology from the Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacîs, Alberta, and Dr. Murray Humphries, a Canadian wildlife ecologist based at McGill University.
The theme of International Mountain Day 2023 focused on restoring mountain ecosystems, aligning with the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030. Dr. Johnson and Dr. Humphries delved into the profound connection between restoring ecosystems and the healing and reclaiming journey for Indigenous peoples. They emphasized that this process is not merely about ecological restoration but also involves revitalizing cultural knowledge and traditions within Indigenous communities.
They also provided a short history of CMN, which is a pan-Canadian Network that has been at the forefront of collaborative, interdisciplinary, and inclusive research since its inception in April 2019. The Network, funded until March 2024, operates under the Network’s Centres of Excellence (NCE) program, which comes to an end at that time. CMN's core mission is to provide Canadians with state-of-the-art tools and knowledge based on multiple ways of knowing that are essential for informed decision-making to sustain and manage mountain places in the face of unprecedented environmental, economic and societal changes.
CMN has identified four Knowledge Priority Areas, emphasizing Indigenous culture and knowledge, understanding the impacts of climate change, developing innovative governance models for mountain systems, and supporting place-based livelihoods in mountain regions. The Network employs three modes of research: conventional research, partnership-based participatory research, and Indigenous-led research.
CMN's 7 Knowledge Hubs
A significant evolution occurred in CMN's approach during its second call for proposals, shifting from conventional research projects to Knowledge Hubs. These larger-scale initiatives encompass research, training, knowledge mobilization, networking, and partnerships, fostering sustained knowledge relationships to support decision-making and action.
Exciting news was shared during the webinar – CMN will continue its impactful work for another five years, funded through the Strategic Science Fund. The Network will undergo rebranding as Braiding Knowledges Canada (BKC), extending its focus beyond mountains to support reconciliation through research. BKC aims to braid Western and Indigenous knowledges with federal science priorities, fostering restoration, conservation, adaptation, and well-being.
BKC's mission is to enhance the influence of self-determined, place-based, and co-produced knowledge within Canada’s science culture, fostering a more equitable reciprocity between Indigenous and local knowledge approaches and federal science priorities. The transition will carry forward Knowledge Hubs, focusing on talent development, building capacity, and fostering impact connections from local to federal levels.
Dr. Johnson emphasized the challenge of bringing Indigenous Knowledge to the Canadian public perspective, urging a deeper understanding of what mountains represent in stories and the complexity of Indigenous Knowledge.
In her teachings of Indigenous Knowledge and research methods, Dr. Johnson advocates opening minds, challenging societal knowledge foundations, and overcoming the fear of embracing different worldviews.She underscored the importance of restoring not just ecosystems but also knowledge, culture, and the entirety of Indigenous communities, including traditional agreements regarding Indigenous territories.
Dr. Johnson concluded by reflecting on the holistic mindset required for effective mountain restoration. She stressed the need to build trust, engage in uncomfortable conversations, challenge existing foundations of knowledge, and encourage a vulnerable and open mindset. The webinar left participants with a powerful message: the solutions lie in braiding knowledges, finding connection points, and embracing a holistic approach to knowledge application for the benefit of people and places.