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By Christina Macdonald

The Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS) is a national initiative that supports coastal and ocean stewardship, economic innovation, and marine safety and navigation in Canada by providing access to high quality coastal and ocean information and data through an online platform. Three Regional Associations located in the Pacific, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Atlantic are working with partners to develop a system that meets the needs of local communities and contributes to national and global ocean observing initiatives.

Indigenous Peoples have governed ocean resources and coastal ecosystems based on the principles of sustainability for thousands of years, and are in a unique position to inform the identification of ocean observing needs for the future. At OceanObs’19, a decadal conference that brings together the global ocean observing science community, 53 Indigenous delegates presented a declaration known as Aha Honua that called on the ocean observing community “to formally recognize the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples worldwide as well as the articles within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In response to this declaration and to further our efforts towards meaningful Indigenous engagement, the Atlantic Regional Association of the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS Atlantic) hosted a three-part Discussion Series to learn about Indigenous knowledge systems. This Series brought together individuals from Canada and around the world who are stewards of Indigenous knowledge and data and work with coastal and ocean observations, to strengthen existing networks, create new connections, and discuss opportunities for collaboration. 

Indigenous and Western knowledge systems can and must come together in powerful ways to help us take care of our coasts and oceans. But the tools and protocols have to be in place to ensure Indigenous control of knowledge and data is retained. – Christina Macdonald, Engagement Specialist, CIOOS Atlantic

The Discussions were recorded and can be accessed on the CIOOS Atlantic YouTube channel. A supporting Literature Review can be found on the CIOOS Atlantic website

Key considerations that emerged from the Discussion Series include: tools are needed that protect and promote Indigenous data ownership and control, local protocols are vital to facilitating knowledge sharing, digital technologies can support oral cultures, and data sharing approaches must be of value to and benefit Indigenous Peoples. 

The Discussion Series and Literature Review were made possible with the generous support of the Ocean Frontier Institute and Canada’s Ocean Supercluster.