‘A change of heart’: Indigenous perspectives from the Onjisay Aki Summit on climate change

Posted in: Documents & Declarations

An article sharing the perspectives of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and international climate leaders who convened at Turtle Lodge in 2017 was recently published in the Climatic Change journal:
‘A change of heart’: Indigenous perspectives from the Onjisay Aki Summit on climate change
Laura Cameron, Dave Courchene, Sabina ijaz & Ian Mauro

Published 15 February 2021 in Climatic Change volume 164, Article number: 43 (2021) 

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Read the full article here


Article Abstract

In June 2017, the Turtle Lodge Indigenous knowledge centre convened the Onjisay Aki International Climate Summit, an unparalleled opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue on climate change with environmental leaders and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers from 14 Nations around the world.

In collaboration with Turtle Lodge, the Prairie Climate Centre was invited to support the documentation and communication of knowledge shared at the Summit. This process of Indigenous-led community-based research took an inter-epistemological approach, using roundtable discussions within a ceremonial context and collaborative written and video methods.

The Summit brought forward an understanding of climate change as a symptom of a much larger problem with how colonialism has altered the human condition. The Knowledge Keepers suggested that, in order to effectively address climate change, humanity needs a shift in values and behaviours that ground our collective existence in a balanced relationship with the natural world and its laws.

They emphasized that their diverse knowledges and traditions can provide inspiration and guidance for this cultural shift. This underscores the need for a new approach to engaging with Indigenous knowledge in climate research, which acknowledges it not only as a source of environmental observations, but a wealth of values, philosophies, and worldviews which can inform and guide action and research more broadly.

In this light, Onjisay Aki makes significant contributions to the literature on Indigenous knowledge on climate change in Canada and internationally, as well as the ways in which this knowledge is gathered, documented, and shared through the leadership of the Knowledge Keepers.


The Summit convened 22 leaders, among them 17 Knowledge Keepers and community leaders from Indigenous Nations including the Anishinaabe, Dakota, Dene, Plains Cree, Lakota, Plains Cree, Lakota, Blackfoot, Cherokee/Choctaw, Haida, Pueblo, and Inka.

The roundtable discussion proceeded in the sacred Turtle Lodge over four days, led by traditional ceremonies of Indigenous Peoples from across North and South America and following Anishinaabe protocols of a talking circle, facilitated by Chair and Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper,  Dr. Dave Courchene.

Through this cultural and spiritual connection, participants discussed the importance of Indigenous peoples fostering their ancestral knowledges and connection with the Earth. Knowledge transmission between Indigenous Elders and youth was a common theme, and the idea was brought forward to develop ‘Ancestral Centres of Knowledge’ to provide opportunities for land-based education for intergenerational knowledge exchange.

As Dene storyteller Lawrence Nayally shared ‘There’s still so much incredible knowledge that our people have that the world has never heard before’.

Plains Cree and Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper, Alvin Manitopyes acknowledged that there is increasing recognition of Indigenous wisdom around the world: ‘We have suffered so much, but yet, we have so much to give to the world, and the world is starting to recognize the validity of our spiritual knowledge’.

Click here to see a video of the Onjisay Aki gathering.

Click here to see a video of the Onjisay Aki International Climate Calls to Action

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