Amplifying the Voice of Water: Interweaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science


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The fifth and most recent Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science Workshop explored the roles of sustainability and environmental stewardship in water governance initiatives, from the point of view view of both indigenous worldviews and western science. A key lesson that emerged was that water has a story to tell and it is our responsibility to listen.

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Water is an important factor in the NWMO’s plan for the safe and long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The interweaving of Indigenous knowledge and Western science is central to all of the work of the NWMO, and this workshop plays a critical role in bringing these perspectives together to inform our approach to issues such as environmental stewardship.

Participants spoke about the spiritual, emotional and physical teachings of water which are closely linked to many worldviews and knowledge systems. We have learned that water governance must include water protection and that it must repair the damage done to water.

“We have to see water as a living spirit, as a living being. Water is alive. You can talk to the water, and she will talk to you, ”said Elder Diane Longboat of the NWMO Elders and Youth Council. “He is a unifying and transforming being who will bring us all together. We must be amazed by the water and the teachings it must share with us.

Participants included Indigenous knowledge keepers, Elders, youth, scientists, industry professionals and members of the NWMO. Panelists discussed the personal connections we all have with water – as our first home, as medicine for all of Creation and the sacred relationship that water has with Grandma’s moon, the sun. grandfather’s and grandfather’s rocks.

“Over 70% of the earth’s crust is made up of billion-year-old rocks,” said Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a geologist and professor at the University of Toronto. “The water carries the memory of the rock that was there.”

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When we follow the water, it reveals life. The way the water survives gives us clues to its memory and a water sample can tell us a story about what the water has been exposed to in the environment, providing valuable information to inform our work.

Our instinct to protect water, people and the environment reflects the values ​​and priorities that Canadians and Indigenous peoples have identified as important during our consultations with them on different approaches to long-term management of the used nuclear fuel.

The lessons learned from these workshops will continue to inform our approach as water supports people and the environment and its protection is the common bond we have with each other.


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