• Indigenous Sápara territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon © Gleb Raygorodetsky

    Indigenous Sápara territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon

“If the land is not healthy, how can we be?” – Whapmagoostui Cree Elder[1]

Project Summary

We are a team of Indigenous organizations, governments, university researchers, and other resource people who are working together for research and action in support of the health and well-being of the environment and people. We want to strengthen Indigenous voices and capacities to document their knowledge about the importance of the whole environment (including biodiversity) to the health and well-being of their communities. The outcomes of the research will support Indigenous leaders who want to be heard by local-national-global governments and organizations and address current problems of environment and human health. Together, we are working to develop a strong voice for protecting the environment in ways that benefit Indigenous peoples.


Most of the Earth’s biodiversity is located in the territories of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples in Canada and globally are highly successful at “taking care” of the land and resources in ways that are good for the environment and support the health and well-being of their communities. Many Indigenous Peoples have worldviews (cosmovisions), beliefs and knowledge about the strong relationship between people and the environment.  These have been shared in terms used by Maori (whakapapa[2]), Dene (nene[3]), Cree (askiy[4]), Mi’kmaq (netukulimk[5]), Quechua (ayllu[6]), and other Indigenous Peoples. Ărramăt is a concept in Tamasheq, the Indigenous language spoken by the Tuareg people whose ancestral land encompasses the current territories of Algeria, Burkina-Faso, Libya, Mali, and Niger, that describes a state of well-being shared by the environment, animals, and humans​. It is written in Tifinagh, the Tuareg alphabet, as ⴰⵔⵔⴰⵎⴰⵜ.  These words teach us that if the lands (water, fish, animals, plants) are not healthy, then the people are not healthy.

In many countries and places, Indigenous Peoples are not heard, and their knowledge and good practices are not recognized. Indigenous Peoples are excluded from decision-making processes related to lands and resources, exacerbating challenges and crises faced by Indigenous Peoples including forced displacement from territories, lack of access to traditional / country food (bush meat, medicines, plants), poor nutrition, cultural loss, and threats to the sustainability of Indigenous knowledge systems, lifeways, practices, and languages. These same decisions also lead to problems such as the loss of many species, habitats and places that sustain the whole environment (i.e., Mother Earth).

Between 2019 and 2021, we developed a proposal and received funding from a federal government program in Canada called New Frontiers in Research Fund – Transformation. With this funding, our large project is underway, in collaboration with many Indigenous governments and organizations from Canada and around the world. Answering the call of Indigenous leaders, the project creates opportunities for Indigenous partners to access funding, design and implement locally relevant projects that reinforce and expand their capacities, and provide significant and sustainable impacts and opportunities moving forward. To support this, we are utilizing a project governance structure, in which the voice of each partner is reflected. The intention is to support Indigenous Peoples to document their knowledge and wise practice of taking care of the land, water, fish, wildlife, forests plants, and sacred places as well as their own health and well-being. Data collection and sharing will be developed with partners premised in ethical space and built on the foundation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular, the principle and right of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)”. The project started in 2021 and will take place until 2027, and we hope to fund over 100 Indigenous-led research projects in Canada and around the world.

The project is important in three ways. It helps to:

  • build the capacity of Indigenous organizations to document, share, and use their knowledge about the interconnections between biodiversity conservation and health and well-being
  • support Community-Based Participatory Research (Indigenous-led research projects) that evidence the health and well-being outcomes of biodiversity conservation
  • support Indigenous leaders in driving institutional change at local, regional, and global scales to improve health and well-being, and curb the decline of biodiversity

The proposal for this project was developed with the collaboration and input of our Indigenous partners around the world, whose perspectives are essential. Your thoughts and ideas about this project are encouraged and welcomed and we thank you in advance for your time.

You can contact our team for more information: info@arramatproject.org

[1] Naomi Adelson, “Being Alive Well”: Health and the Politics of Cree Well-Being (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).

[2] Lyver Phil O’B and al, “Key Māori values strengthen the mapping of forest ecosystem services” (2017) 27 Ecosystem services 92.

[3] Brenda Parlee and al,“Understanding and Communicating About Ecological Change: Denesoline Indicators of Ecosystem Health” in Fikret Berkes and al, eds, Breaking Ice: Integrated Ocean Management in the Canadian North, Calgary, University of Calgary Press, 2008, 165.

[4] Maria M’Lot, Kâ Isinâkwâk Askîy: Using Cree knowledge to perceive and describe the landscape of the Wapusk National Park area, Masters of Natural Resource Management, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, 2002 [unpublished].

[5] Kerry Prosper and al, “Returning to Netukulimk: Mi’kmaq cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship and self-governance” (2011) 2:4 Int. Indig. Policy J. 7.

[6] Alejandro Argumendo & Bernard Yun Loong Wong, “The ayllu system of the Potato Park (Peru)” in Caroline Bélair and al, “Sustainable use of Biological Diversity in Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes: Background to the ‘Satoyama Initiative for the benefit of Biodiversity and Human Well-being (2010) Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD Technical Series No. 52 84.

Please note: We are currently in the process of updating translations to reflect that we have received funding. Additionally, we will be adding more Indigenous languages in the future. If you would like to see your language included in this section, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@arramatproject.org

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