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Indigenous Renewable Energy

April 03,2017

Indigenous communities lead the way in renewable energy developments and partnerships

Following Renewable Energy

Indigenous communities are increasingly becoming leaders in clean and renewable energy projects across Canada. Often reflective of Indigenous cultural and environmental values, these projects are also helping communities address fundamental needs such as health, education, employment, and infrastructure; they may also be connected to promoting cultural renewal and sovereignty. With approximately 300 total projects in 200 communities in various stages of development recorded to date, and with future initiatives holding promise for continued and expanded support, these projects hold considerable promise for both Indigenous communities, and the environment.  

Dr. Gregory Lowan-Trudeau, whose research program explores the connections between Indigenous environmental health, justice, and education, leads a collaborative initiative to document these initiatives. The project, which maps renewable energy projects by Indigenous communities across Canada, has recorded an inspiring number of emerging and more established projects across the country (www.indigenousenergy.ca).

Growth and Sustainability

Findings from Dr. Lowan-Trudeau’s review of publicly available information show a mix of renewable energy sources from across the country, including northern regions. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies are also building partnerships with communities in developments. Successful communities are now also sharing their experiences to support further energy security and development with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike across Canada.

Inspired by the insights from the mapping project, Dr. Lowan-Trudeau recently became a principal investigator on a 5-year, $2 million CIHR team grant that will work collaboratively with several Indigenous communities. The project will explore how renewable energy projects can play a part in building strong and healthy communities, rooted in traditional understandings of the natural world, in the current context of reconciliation. This study will also create opportunities for graduate researchers and field schools for other students, providing unique experiences for upcoming scholars.

The new work will further explore the implications and future possibilities of renewable energy projects across Canada. The team hopes the study will help better understand the intricate connections between traditional environmental knowledge and land-based practices, and their connections with contemporary science, technology, health, and social justice. This project, along with others at the intersection of Indigenous communities and knowledge, are important to continuing the reconciliation process – promoting respect, acknowledgement, and partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.