Christie Kotash


Bachelor of Arts, Native Studies/Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education, Faculty of Native Studies, 5th Year 

Course: NS 450/550 (Winter 2022) with Instructor Dr. Nancy Van Styvendale

Who was your community partner, and can you describe the project objectives? 

I was part of a community partnership with an Indigenous-led organization, Indigenous Climate Action (ICA). With ICA, I participated as a research assistant in Phase 2 of the Decolonizing Climate Policy Research project. The main objective of this project aims to create Indigenous-led climate policy by making space to amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples to empower Indigenous communities to raise up those involved in Indigenous-led solutions.

What was the biggest takeaway from your CSL placement? 

My biggest takeaway from being a part of this project was being able to experience decolonizing research, or at least my understanding of decolonial Indigenous-led research looks like practice, rather than just in theory. Also, as nêhiyawiskwêw, it was a valuable experience to learn other Indigenous peoples' knowledge of the land and the things they do connect to it, care for it and protect it. 

How can you apply any newly gained knowledge/skills to your future endeavours (courses/employment/volunteering)?

I believe that building a relationship with the land is the fundamental step to climate action. I gain knowledge from my CSL experience. In future endeavours, I carry this knowledge wherever I go. Caring for the land is very meaningful, and being a part of this project has inspired me to teach my students about the land, help them deepen their connection to the land and understand their personal relation to the places they live in.

What are some ways that COVID-19 has affected your community partner or your placement? 

My placement and research assistant work was entirely online. Being online has affected ICA’s ability to get a deeper relationship with our community partners and, as such, affected their research. Indigenous communities are deeply relational, not just with the land but with each other. This affects how they can gather information at the community level and garner a trustful relationship. 

In an ideal world, free from a global pandemic, there would have been community visits that would have been crucial to the research and my own learning experience. Bundling these relations outside of the research and organizations is important because we can create lifelong personal community connections. While it would have been an amazing opportunity to build relations with the research in person, that was not feasible due to location. 

I would say that one benefit of this project being entirely online was that it allowed me to experience a valuable partnership that led to making connections with other Indigenous peoples all across Turtle Island and globally. While there are limitations to research that can be done online, I am grateful that ICA and the Decolonizing Climate Policy Research team welcomed me to be involved in the incredible climate action work they do and advocate for. It was a very personally enriching project to be a part of. ay-ay