Max Pospisil

Dissertation Abstract

A Community-Driven Ethics for Woodland Caribou Stewardship in North-Central Saskatchewan
Due to sharply decreasing populations, woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) have become an animal of concern for Canadian and Indigenous peoples. In north-central Saskatchewan, Canada, Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, policy makers, land users, communities, and industry have faced multiple challenges working together to manage and conserve the subspecies. Some of these challenges are due to the vastly different ways that Euro-Western and Indigenous cultures know and understand the world, generally, and nonhuman animals in particular. The language of ethics and values may provide a working platform for intercultural conversations about wildlife stewardship that addresses some of these concerns. Using multispecies ethnographic and participatory community-based research methodologies, and visual methods within the context of a community caribou art exhibit and beyond, this dissertation study documents the ethical teachings and values that structure how northern Woodland Cree, Métis, and Euro-Canadian communities in and around La Ronge, Saskatchewan engage with woodland caribou and stewardship strategies. Four key themes have emerged from the communities’ values as important for caribou stewardship: (1) respectful relationships with nonhuman beings; (2) human responsibilities to care for other species and land; (3) intergenerational transmission of values; (4) the importance of working interculturally. The values present in these themes, discussed and employed in an ethical framework, will be recommended as a practical means to partner with Indigenous, Euro-Canadian, and more-than-human ways of knowing to gain better understandings of human-caribou relations, cultivate pathways for reconciliation, and develop more effective and ethical intercultural management practices in Saskatchewan.

I am a PhD candidate in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. My dissertation research focuses on ethics and values as an integral part of intercultural woodland caribou stewardship in northern Saskatchewan. Through this work, I have partnered with Indigenous governments and organizations to learn important teachings regarding human-wildlife relationships. My dissertation builds on themes initially begun during my master’s thesis research regarding multiple ways of knowing and listening to animal voices through the practice of wildlife rehabilitation. Through my life within and without the academy, I am passionate about helping humans in Euro-Western cultures form right relationships with wild animals and the natural world, and I employ visual arts methods as a way of knowing that is especially suited to the non-verbal exchanges that inform these relationships. I especially enjoy working with diverse groups of humans and other-than-humans, learning from their experiences and knowledges.