As an Indigenous geographer and environmental management scholar deeply rooted in my Huron-Wendat traditions and community, I see my purpose as a cultural translator between two worlds – Western and Indigenous – that have historically struggled to meaningfully communicate. Indeed, for a variety of reasons, academia has traditionally been reluctant to seek to understand Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, and being, and to incorporate relevant Indigenous knowledge (IK) concepts into fields related to environmental management. I am keenly aware of the need for deeper reconciliation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous intellectual communities through the creation of mutually usable channels of communication and research collaboration.
It is this deeper motivation that initially sparked my interest in the field of environmental studies and management. My growing interest in Indigenous environmental management paradigms compelled me to pursue my MA in geography at the University of Ottawa. My two-year participatory research in a 'non-status' Algonquin community in eastern Ontario (Ardoch Algonquin First Nation) project sought to understand AAFN’s traditional spiritual ecology (mino pimàdiziwin) as it is currently practiced by its members, and compare it with land-use ethics underlying resource development strategies promoted by the Ontario government. My master’s research further augmented my interest in Indigenous land-based philosophies, and led me to choose to pursue my doctoral research, at Carleton University, on current Mayan land-use and management knowledges in Yucatan, Mexico. Relying on interviews and participant-observation, my doctoral research sought to document, interpret and elaborate a synthesis of the current state of Yucatec Maya land-use knowledges of a Mayan community (Xuilub) and describe how they are understood and put into practice on the land by its members.
My current research aims to bridge Indigenous and Western academic epistemologies. I believe this harmonization process will foster the development of environmental management strategies that are more likely to promote responsible and respectful relationships with the environment over the long term. It is my hope that this effort will help the Canadian and global societies to deal more effectively with increasingly complex local, regional, and global environmental management challenges.
Active Research Projects
Advancing Indigenous Environmental Stewardship (2019-2024, SSHRC Insight Grant):
Building on existing relationships to work closely with Dehcho First Nations, NWT, and James Bay Cree, northern Québec, the research will undertake a major inter-regional comparative effort to co-generate knowledge about best practices and key hurdles for Indigenous governments seeking to assert their roles as environmental stewards and resource managers. The outputs will provide new insights to both researchers and policy makers, providing openings towards more holistic co-management approaches that recognize and affirm the central role of Indigenous peoples as stewards of their ancestral territories. The research will identify potential best practices for IK consolidation and mobilization in stewardship and land-use management. It will also probe governance arrangements, economic relationships and other factors that hinder Indigenous efforts in these areas. The project will be carried out through multi-year engagement, both at the regional level and with two collaborating communities in each region. Strong investments in relationship building will set the stage for in-depth data collection with community members, Elders and land users, as well as community and regional leaders and land managers. This data collection will also provide a platform for both student and community research training and capacity building.
Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost Change (2018-2021, funded by ArcticNet):
The Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost Change (DCoP) initiative's overall objective is to generate a fusion of leading-edge scientific and Indigenous knowledge on permafrost, and to use it as a basis to co-develop new predictive decision support tools and innovative risk management strategies to inventory and manage permafrost and adapt to permafrost thaw. Close consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho, identified the urgent need for sustained community engagement based on two-way knowledge exchange to guide specific needs for improved permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation, process understanding, and prediction. DCoP researchers and community members will co-develop a number of knowledge-based (i.e. founded upon scientific and/or Indigenous knowledge) resources for permafrost adaption, including novel and affordable devices for monitoring permafrost and inhibiting ground thaw, new probabilistic methods for determining permafrost presence and thaw susceptibility, knowledge-based evaluation of adaptation strategies, and new means of determining future permafrost conditions and resultant land cover and hydrological changes. Other resources accessible from the portal include real-time data, data archives from the DCoP research and monitoring sites, remote sensing data layers and synthesis products including interactive maps of permafrost distribution, thaw susceptibility, and permafrost thaw-induced land-cover changes.
Matawa Water Futures (2018-2021, funded by Global Water Futures):
Matawa Water Futures (MWF) brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous forms of knowledge to promote the development of an Indigenous-informed water monitoring framework that will help Matawa member First Nations (MFN) prepare for climate change and future industrial development. The study is innovative in terms of merging these methodological solitudes into an integrated framework to advance water science monitoring and increase Indigenous access to critical information needed for informed decision making and water stewardship in current and future contexts of change. Indigenous communities will have improved capacity for understanding and translating water science critical to informed engagement in consultations, environmental assessments, and decision making regarding proposed industrial developments. Three community studies will be conducted over three years to gather knowledge on local water issues, including video interviews of Elders and water stories mapping.
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies seeks three (3) graduate students at the PhD or Master’s level (PhD, MA or MES) to work with Indigenous (Dene) communities in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories (NWT) on three (3) projects related to permafrost thaw impacts on Indigenous livelihoods and traditional land-use practices. Positions are available in field-based studies on the impacts of permafrost change on the Dehcho First Nations (DFN). Applicants must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Climate warming and human disturbance in the Dehcho region of the NWT, Canada, has led to widespread permafrost thaw and land cover change that has disrupted the hydrological cycle and the ecosystems and Indigenous land-based activities that depend on stable permafrost conditions. There is a growing awareness in the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region's economy, as well as the health, well-being, and livelihoods of its DFN residents. However, there is lack of information on permafrost distribution, evolution, and resultant landscape change trajectory in this region. As a result, the ability to manage and respond to this new and growing threat to the Dehcho is extremely limited. There is therefore an urgent need to develop and mobilise both scientific and Indigenous knowledge (IK) on permafrost thaw in the Dehcho and elsewhere in the subarctic, and to develop new, practical, and customized predictive tools and strategies to adapt to permafrost thaw, and to provide interactive training to decision makers and other users.
Beginning in September 2020, under the supervision of Dr. Miguel Sioui, graduate student positions at the PhD and Master’s level are available in the areas of:
At Wilfrid Laurier University, the minimum funding package for Canadian students (citizens or permanent residents) is $22,000/year at the PhD level, and $14,500/year at the Master’s level.
If interested, please contact Dr. Miguel Sioui (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sioui, M. (2021). Indigenous Geographies in the Yucatan: Learning from the Responsibility-Based Maya Environmental Ethos. Cham: Springer.
Sioui, M (Ed.). Indigenous Water and Drought Management in a Changing World. New York: Elsevier (forthcoming, under contract).
Peer-reviewed journal articles
Sioui, M. (2018). Learning to be part of the land: Experiences of a Canadian Indigenous researcher doing research in a Yucatec Maya community. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 38(2), 125-144.
Smith, J., Smith, D., Sioui, M. (2016). Nature, cities, people: an exploration of Aboriginal perspectives, The Canadian Geographer, 60(1), 3-8.
Sioui, M., McLeman, R. (2014). Asserting mino pimàdiziwin on unceded Algonquin territory: Experiences of a Canadian ‘non-status’ First Nation in re-establishing its traditional land ethic, AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 10(4), 354-375.Peer-reviewed book chapters
Sioui, M. (2019). Drought in the Yucatan: Maya Perspectives on Tradition, Change, and Adaptation. In Mapedza et al. (Eds.) Drought Preparedness and Livelihood Implications in Developing Countries (Vol. 2, pp. 67-75). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
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