Co-Creating a Climate Resilient Initiative with the Piikani Nation

The Piikani Nation is a small First Nation community on a reserve that was established by virtue of Treaty 7 in Canada. Risks associated with climate change such as increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, flooding and drought, have already emerged as serious threats to the Piikani people who are geographically and culturally isolated through the drawing of the US/Canada Border.

Now more than ever Blackfoot knowledge and perspectives are needed to address the wicked challenges brought by climate change. TRI and Piikani Nation community experts, elders, teachers, and students are engaged in a multi-year initiative to develop climate resilience through a number of co-created activities. These holistic approaches to climate adaptation are creating reciprocal learning between Indigenous and scientific / technical experts and momentum for transdisciplinary climate action.

Key activities of the multi-year initiative continue to evolve and adhere to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent ethical guidelines for collaborating with Indigenous Peoples. Examples include:

  • A comprehensive Greenhouse Program lead by the Sūṗiio’omaaksinteam which consists of knowledge holders from Piikani Lands, Peigan Board of Education and TRI. Loosely translated from Blackfoot to English  Sūṗiio’omaaksin means in the spirit of planting seeds. By utilizing both traditional knowledge and good practices in scientific/technical knowledge, the program is developing local food and energy security through the implementation of renewable energy, the reclamation of land, and growing healthy food and traditional plants. Partners include researchers from the Arctic Institute of North America who are sharing good practices in green house design and development from Northern Indigenous communities.
  • Stories of Resilience from the Piikani Nation highlight the individual and community attributes that make communities resilient when disaster strikes. The initiative is bringing community members together through written and visual storytelling to inspire conversation about what it means to be resilient. Stories of Resilience is a a signature program of the Resilience Institute that brings community together in dialogue & creativity on climate change.
  • The Air we Breathe – traditional and scientific understanding of air quality and strategies for staying healthy in new climate scenarios is creating practical way for weaving Blackfoot ways of knowing with scientific / technical knowledge on climate change adaptation and health impacts, specifically on understanding the relationship between air quality, and health. Students from the High School will directly be engaged in learning how to monitor air quality from a technical/scientific perspective while at the same time learning how to interview elders and other members of the community on their experience and observations. This might include recording how people experience the air, and changes they witness in animals, plants, and birds. At the end of the monitoring periods, students will compare findings from scientific and Blackfoot monitoring efforts.
  • Youth-Led Local Early Action Plan created hands-on opportunities for Piikaniyouth to learn about climate change and how to engage/interview community members. Interviews were conducted over the summer to collect feedback on community observations and ideas for resilience building. The LEAP findings are helping to generate a portfolio of strategies and actions to better manage the priority threats with a list of immediate strategies and actions to be considered for implementation.

Restoration of Kainai Native Grassland and Traditional Plant Populations

This initiative was inspired by Building Climate Resilience & Adaptation in the Kainai First Nation – Phase I Capacity Building.

This initiative in the Kainai First Nation weaves Blackfoot and western scientific knowledge paradigms to improve overall ecosystem health and resilience of site habitat by removing invasive plants and restoring highly diverse native species (including traditional plants) to meet cultural, economic and ecological goals.

Restoration of native grassland builds climate resilience by addressing cultural and ecological vulnerabilities in the Kainai prairie ecosystem such as changing fire regimes, invasive species, and livestock overgrazing.

Activities include a series of workshops, community events, trainings on seed collection, creating a database of traditional plants, and skill-building for control of invasive species. An important component of this initiative is the involvement of elders and other knowledge holders who advise and guide the project activities and the creation of a Grasslands Restoration Stewards Program.

There is tremendous opportunity to scale-up this initiative; interested supporters please contact

IPCC Cities Conference Indigenous & Scientific Knowledge on Adaptation Session

As part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Cities Conference in Edmonton, TRI and several of Alberta’s Indigenous groups, their global south partners, and the Government of Alberta co-created a series of dialogues on the importance of Indigenous and scientific knowledge systems working together toward climate change resilience.

The overall aim of the dialogues was to create a welcoming space for Indigenous knowledge holders to share their stories and views with the scientific community that in turn would:

  • provide inspiration to IPCC conference attendees, particularly in viewing climate challenges differently;
  • inspire a process for knowledge exchange between Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge holders that could be replicated in future IPCC meetings; and
  • ignite interest in Indigenous knowledge holders, including youth to spur climate change action in their urban and rural environments.

The collaboration provided a replicable process for engaging Indigenous Peoples’ in meaningful ways and encouraging a pathway for meaningful Indigenous engagement that could help strengthen the IPCC’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Fire & Ice – The Art of Climate Change Engagement Series

Through a series of engagement activities, nearly 400 community members in the Canadian Rocky Mountains learned about glaciers and wildfires in the context of climate change. In one of the activities close to 250 seniors learned new knowledge about climate change risks from scientists (wildfire and water security through glacier melt), plus photography skills by a professional landscape photographer. Participants attended field trips focused on these themes to capture images and inspire essays which became part of an exhibition at the Canmore Public Library and Cave & Basin Historical Site that an estimated 70,000 people from around the world will view.

An evening dialogue event was also hosted featuring a keynote presentation from wildfire expert Dr. Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in conversation with Blackfoot knowledge-holder, Travis Plaited Hair from the Kainai First Nation. The conversation focused on how values shape decision-making on managing large wildfires that cross communities and cultures.

Photo by Gary Finley

Building Climate Resilience & Adaptation in the Willow Lake Métis

The goals of our partnership with Willow Lake Métis located near Anzac in Northern Alberta Canada are to:

  • Our partnership with the Willow Lake Métis aims to:
  • Broadly increase climate change knowledge and skills by delivering basic climate change education and regional/cultural climate information that is relevant to the community.
  • Engage with community members to better understand their perception of the risks and opportunities that climate change brings and summarize this information.
  • Inspire community members to learn more and to get involved in future climate change initiatives.
  • Develop an initial Local Early Adaptation Plan (LEAP) that can be further built upon. A LEAP can help to formulate adaptation actions to reduce the community’s vulnerability to climate change, enhance its capacity to take advantage of any opportunities foreseen to arise, and support future funding efforts.

Early Adaptation Action & Vulnerability Risk Assessment for the Nama Tribe

Thanks to an inspired anonymous donor and a number of public supporters, TRI together with South African National Parks (SANParks), the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (ARC) and the University of Western Cape completed a pilot project in support of the Nama Indigenous peoples in Kuboes, South Africa. Kuboes is just outside of Cape Town near the Richtersveld World Heritage Site.

Responding to the community’s request for an early adaptation strategy, the team purchased and installed three water capture units at the Kuboes School.

To help with longer-term planning, a climate vulnerability risk assessment was also conducted which explored how the community is adapting to climate change through cultural, social, economic and resource utilization practices.

Over 400 people participated in the risk assessment. In addition, four students from the University of the Western Cape and three students from the Kuboes community were engaged in hands-on learning by assisting with the project.

This initiative inspired the Scaling Out Adaptation Options for Indigenous Communities Adjacent to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Parks in Southern Africa initiative.

Co-Creating Climate Learning Journeys (C3LJ)

This pilot engaged small- and medium-sized businesses, Indigenous communities and residents in Northern Alberta in the co-creation of climate change educational workshops.

Our Theory of Change is that by co-creating the content for climate change education workshops, participants will be more engaged in the learning process and therefore more willing to change behavior toward building climate resilient communities.

The pilot has led to a scalable and replicable process for engagement in climate change learning. Coined Co-Creating Climate Learning Journeys – C3LJ.

Fire with Fire

Fire with Fire is a multi-year, multi-partner initiative aimed at building capacity for climate adaptation by braiding Indigenous, local and scientific knowledges. Building understanding hinges on having access to the best available knowledge irrespective of its origin.

The goals of Fire with Fire are to:

  • Develop and deliver workshops with participating Indigenous communities.
  • Mobilize best available Indigenous and scientific knowledge by using the participatory video method.
  • Hold knowledge-sharing workshops to improve local climate change adaptation responses.
  • Establish respectful knowledge co-production between Indigenous, local, scientific and decision-making communities.

Outcomes of the First Multi-Partner Workshop

There are numerous opportunities to scale-up this initiative such as sponsoring the multi-partner workshops. Interested supporters please contact

Keeping the Fire Burning Webinar #1: Climate Change from a Regional and Global Perspective:

Keeping the Fire Burning Webinar #2: Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change:

Indigenous Peoples Relationship with Fire: national and global experiences

Ethical Considerations and Guidance for Ethical Participatory Video Practice – Webinar 4

Prescribed Burning in Canada – Part 1 – Webinar 5

Prescribed Burning in Canada – Part 2: Fire Management in the Mountain National Parks – Webinar 6

Building Climate Resilience & Adaptation in the Kainai First Nation – Phase I Capacity Building

Over 100 community members from the Kainai First Nation participated in this initiative including Elders, council members, directors, technicians, managers in multiple departments and emergency services. To help facilitate the initiative, a new in-tribe climate change coordinator position was created.

The four main activities were:

  1. Delivery of education sessions and dialogues on perceived risks.
  2. Engagement of youth and Elders in a learning journey about climate change from western scientific and Blackfoot perspectives that led to the art installation Through the Eyes of Kainai Youth – Art of Climate Change. Their work was chosen for a major exhibition at the Cave & Basin Historical Site in Banff National Park, Alberta that over 70,000 people from around the world will see.
  3. Development of a Traditional Plants Database to help the community collect and store invaluable traditional ecological knowledge for future land-use decisions.
  4. Creation of a Local Early Action Plan to determine the most pressing threats to the community in context of climate change and early traditional and new actions that can be taken to adapt.

This initiative led to meaningful change and inspired the community to engage in Phase II from planning to implementation