Traditional knowledge and use studies

A traditional knowledge and use study (TUS) can be critical to ensuring that Indigenous communities are able to clearly assert their rights and interests in negotiations with industry and governments or in regulatory and environmental assessment processes.

What We Do

We work with elders and knowledge holders to map how communities use land and water for hunting, trapping, fishing, plant gathering, camping, and many other important activities. We also document and assess potential impacts on these activities from industrial developments. We adapt our methods to meet community needs, to provide results that are timely and effective, and that strengthen local voices both within and beyond the community. Firelight’s expertise with mapping and GIS and ecology is critical to this work.


Firelight’s traditional knowledge and use team includes some of the foremost anthropologists and social scientists in Western Canada. Our research leaders are familiar with national and international standards of practice and with the realities of completing quality work on challenging timelines.

Capacity Building

We provide training so that communities can run their own TUS interviews, including developing interview questions, leading interviews, mapping, and how to work with data to produce maps and reports.


Steve DeRoy
Vancouver Office
Phone: (604) 563-2245

Rachel Olson
PhD Anthropology
Vancouver Office
Phone: (604) 563-2245

Indigenous knowledge and use of land, water and resources are documented so that they can be incorporated into various processes such as environmental assessment, planning, and negotiations. We approach this work in ways that foster community development, support local decision making, and that the research is culturally grounded.

Steve DeRoy
Firelight TUS team co-lead

Example Projects

Wîyôw’tan’kitaskino (Our Land is Rich): (Winter 2015)

Building on past studies by Mikisew and Firelight, this work took an innovative community-based approach to assess effects of a large proposed oil sand mine on Mikisew Cree culture and rights. The work combined oral histories, knowledge circles (focus groups), archival review, and other methods to get beyond use and occupancy mapping and develop more culturally informed baselines and thresholds of acceptable change. The assessment was organized across three main areas: cultural practice, subsistence rights and Mikisew stewardship. Deliverables included a final written report and a video to help reviewers understand the importance of Mikisew connections to water and land through hearing the voices of Mikisew experts and knowledge holders. Primary team members were Craig Candler, Molly Malone, and Ginger Gibson. External peer review was provided by Terre Satterfield of UBC.

As Long as the Rivers Flow: Athabasca River Knowledge, Use and Change (Fall 2010)

The Firelight Group worked with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation to understand how Athabasca River levels and water quality change are affecting the practice of Treaty rights downstream from large oil sands facilities. Based on detailed mapping of river knowledge, use, and existing impacts, the study documents and maps a clear relationship between water quality, water levels, and the ability of First Nations to practice Treaty rights on the lower Athabasca River, in the delta, and on adjacent rivers and streams.

As Long as the Rivers Flow cover

Download the report from ACFN’s website

Asi Edee T’seda Dile: Tłı̨chǫ Nation Traditional Knowledge and Use Study for the Proposed NICO Mine Project (Fall 2012)

The Firelight Group worked with the Tłı̨chǫ to conduct a knowledge and use study in relation to Fortune Minerals Ltd. proposed NICO Mine project. The primary goal of this study was to articulate Tłįchǫ knowledge and use values related to the proposed project area, including: use by and importance of the area to Tłįchǫ citizens (historical, current, and future); existing areas of lost use resulting from impacts by past developments in the area; and how the project is likely to influence Tłįchǫ knowledge and use, including the practice of aboriginal and Treaty rights, within and adjacent to the proposed project footprint.


Download the report here

The Firelight Group

Research, policy, planning, mapping, negotiation, advisory, and capacity building services for Indigenous and local communities.


VICTORIA (250) 590-9017
EDMONTON (780) 760-1255


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