Student researcher

Sarah Dickson-Hoyle Research Leader

In British Columbia, Canada, the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons burned a record-breaking 2.5 million hectares across the province and disproportionately affected First Nations communities. These impacts catalyzed many communities into action, and subsequent inquiries recommended establishing equal partnerships with First Nations governments, and incorporating Indigenous knowledge, across all stages of fire management and planning. Along with Canada’s current emphasis on advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, this points to a clear need to advance Indigenous-led collaborative approaches to landscape-scale forest restoration and adaptation. This collaborative study aims to understand the social and ecological responses of the Secwépemc Nation’s people and territory to the 2017 ‘Elephant Hill’ wildfire, and to both document and inform the development of post-fire restoration and co-management initiatives -grounded in Secwépemc knowledge and traditional governance systems - that aim restore both ecological and cultural values in fire-adapted landscapes.

In partnership with Sarah's research partner the Secwepemcúl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society, which was founded by eight Secwépemc First Nations impacted by the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire in British Columbia, Sarah co-authored the report, Elephant Hill: Secwépemc leadership and lessons learned from the collective story of wildfire recovery. The project documented both Secwépemc community and provincial government agency experiences of the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire and the subsequent joint leadership approach to wildfire recovery; identifies ‘lessons learned’ – the successes, strengths and challenges – from collaborative recovery; highlights persistent barriers to achieving ‘true partnerships’ in wildfire and emergency management, and how these can be overcome; and presents key findings and calls to action to support ongoing collaboration and meaningful Indigenous engagement in wildfire response and recovery. The report received extensive media coverage of this report, being featured on more than 200 outlets including radio and major TV news stations, such as this piece in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.