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The term ‘water security’ continues to gain traction in the water resources literature with broad application to human health and longevity of water supply. In this body of literature, water security holds a strong anthropogenic focus, particularly on utilitarian needs and water resource demands of society. There is presently little reference in the literature to ‘water security’ from an Indigenous perspective in Canada. Water has many symbolic meanings to Indigenous people including but not limited to a sacred gift, a life form, and a medicine. These Indigenous ways of knowing are not captured in the current definitions of water security. The purpose of this research is to explore opportunities for an ‘Indigenous’ water security and in so doing make a contribution to the water security discourse. Data for this research emerged from semi-structured interviews with Indigenous participants each representing varied backgrounds and communities from across Saskatchewan. Using an approved interview guide, this qualitative research approach identified themes from the participant interviews specific to an Indigenous perspective on water security. The results clearly indicate that water security from an Indigenous perspective embraces much more than water quality and water availability. At least six themes emerged from this research that speaks to a more holistic framing of water security than that found in the current western science literature. It is shown that an Indigenous water security includes water as a life form, water as connected to the spirit world, women as water-keepers, water as relational to human ethics, water as foundational to Indigenous culture, and the linkage between water and landscape. This broader, Indigenous understanding of the term provides a transformative understanding of water security that not only enriches the narrative but contributes positively to reconciliation between settler state and Indigenous peoples through social learning. While an Indigenous understanding of water security includes a much broader, holistic framing of the term this research also reveals that Indigenous people feel they have little water security. This divergent perspective illustrates the tension between traditional values and belief systems and the current condition of water in many Indigenous communities. The lack of water protection, upstream contamination, challenges facing water treatment, and the inability to govern water are just some of the factors contributing to low water security as reported in this research. An Indigenous understanding of water security encapsulates ‘two-eyed seeing’ by including the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and the strengths of western knowledge.



Water security, Saskatchewan, Indigenous people



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Geography and Planning




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