Examining Methods and Models for Integrative Indigenous and Western Knowledge to Inform Water Management and Research in Canada

Principal Investigator - Heather Castleden, Associate Professor, Queen’s University, 2014 - 2015

In Canada, many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities face significant water management challenges. For decades, government agencies and researchers (most of who are non-Indigenous) have relied on a Western science approach to these management challenges, with limited success. We are now seeing a shift in mentality, where there is an increasing recognition of the importance of applying Indigenous knowledge and methodologies to issues of water quality, accessibility, and treatment. Integrating the perspectives, experiences, and knowledge of Indigenous peoples with innovations in Western science, engineering, and policy is vital to creating new pathways for managing our shared water resources. Previous attempts to do so have been met with mixed results. What is lacking is a systematic, synthesized analysis of what worked and what did not.

The project will assess how Indigenous knowledge and methodologies have been integrated into water management projects, and evaluate the relative merits, strengths, and challenges of the various research approaches.


The goal of this project is to review promising research and management practices that integrate Indigenous and Western knowledge to inform water management practices. Guided by a National Advisory Committee comprised of recognized Indigenous and non-Indigenous water issues experts, the project team will address five key objectives:

  1. Generate three assessment frameworks, which will establish priorities, indicators, and metrics for successful water resource management research and practice
  2. Using the assessment frameworks, evaluate past water resource management research that includes or has attempted to include Indigenous knowledge or methodologies
  3. Facilitate a national Water Gathering with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples from across the country to discuss the project results and engage in dialogue about strategies for effectively moving forward
  4. Recommend promising practices for integrating Indigenous and Western approaches in water resource management
  5. Produce a report to guide water research and inform water resource management and practice

 Anticipated Outputs Include:

  • The project team will host two national Water Gatherings with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge-holders concerning water issues and integrative science. The first gathering will be structured around developing three culturally-relevant assessment frameworks, which will be applied to existing literature, analyzing  ‘promising practice’ strategies for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and methodologies into water management research and practice. Participants will reconvene in the second gathering to refine the project findings and move towards establishing a cohesive vision for integrated Indigenous and Western knowledge
  • Summary report for communities, researchers, decision-makers, consultants, government, and others to guide water research and inform water resource management and practice

Experiences with integrative Indigenous and Western knowledge in water research and management: a systematic realist review of literature from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States

Water Gathering report

Water Gathering report II 

Reconciling how we live with water: The development and use of a collaborative podcasting methodology to explore and share diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis perspectives 

Water Dialogues (podcast)

Canadian and Australian researchers' perspectives on promising practices for implementing Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in water research and management 

An examination of current approaches to integrative Indigenous and Western knowledge system implementation in water research and management: A case study encompassing the colonized geographies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States 

Reconciliation and relationality in water research and management in Canada: Implementing Indigenous ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies 

The expanding digital media landscape of qualitative and decolonizing research: Examining collaborative podcasting as a research method 

Implementing Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in water research and management: A systematic realist review to inform water 

Implementing Indigenous and Western knowledge systems: “You have to take a backseat” and abandon the arrogance of expertise 

Castleden 288

research team and partners:

Research Team

Heather Castleden, Associate Professor, Queen’s University
Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Assistant Professor, Cape Breton University
Sherilee Harper, Assistant Professor, University of Guelph
Debbie Martin, Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University
Khosrow Farahbakhsh, Associate Professor, University of Guelph
Rob Jamieson, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University
Robert Bailey, Professor, Cape Breton University


Assembly of First Nations
Manitoba Metis Federation
Métis National Council (pending)
Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources
Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat
Government of Nunavut
Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq
United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment and Health
Health Canada-First Nations and Inuit Health Branch
Public Health Agency of Canada

(6-page report)

CWN EN Castleden TK 2016 6Pager Web Page 1


CWN IWK Final Project Report