Variability, Change and Continuity in Social-Ecological Systems: Insights from James Bay Cree Cultural Ecology

Mémoire de maîtrise, gestion des ressources naturelles, Université du Manitoba, 2008. Directeur: Fikret Berkes.


This thesis looks at how the Cree hunters of Wemindji, James Bay, Québec, understand and live with ecological complexity and dynamism. The focus is on the  interplay between  variability, change, and continuity in the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) hunt. I interviewed Wemindji hunters, and accompanied them to their hunting  territories, learning  from their knowledge and practices as these pertain to resource harvesting. Looking at Cree goose-hunting in the light of cultural ecology and resilience thinking, the research suggests that Cree hunters are attentive and responsive to ecological fluctuations, fine-tuning local arrangements to local environmental conditions. Ecological variability and unpredictability, such as weather, goose population dynamics and migration patterns, are mediated by local management strategies in which goose hunting areas shift in space and time. However, whereas these strategies are still practiced nowadays, they are (to some extent) overwhelmed by changes occurring at larger scales. Some of these are related to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances; others are related to social-cultural changes that influence resource-use patterns. I discuss how these different drivers interact among themselves and impact the goose-hunt, and how the Wemindji Cree respond to these changes.