B.C. grizzly territories align with Indigenous language communities, new study finds
A new study by a scientist from British Columbia suggests that grizzly bear genetic groups tend to inhabit territory that closely matches areas where people who speak similar Indigenous languages live.
In a journal article published earlier this month, Lauren Henson, a doctoral student at the University of Victoria, and other researchers said the habitats of three major genetic groups of grizzly bears geographically overlap with three native language families: Tsimshian, Wakashan and Salishan Nuxalk.
“It’s an indication of the depth of this relationship between bears and people in the landscape and these resources on which they both depend,” Henson told CBC host Carolina de Ryk. North Dawn.
The science team studied the DNA in the fur of more than 100 bears that was collected over 11 years over an area of 23,500 square kilometers. The area stretches from Kitimat in the north to Bella Bella in the south and from Bella Coola in the east to Hartley Bay in the west.
Henson said his team was working closely with Nuxalk, Haíɫzaqv, Kitasoo / Xai’xais, Gitga’at and Wuikinuxv First Nations to sample and analyze DNA.
“We are only a small part of this large emerging field of examining and integrating different ways of knowing,” she said.
“This study is an example of the richness and insight that this type of collaboration can bring.”
Jennifer Walkus, a Wuikinuxv scientist who was part of the research team, said she was not surprised by the results.
“We and bears have a lot of the same needs, and it makes sense that we stay close enough to an area and have enough resources to feed ourselves,” she said.
“This is certainly in keeping with the fact that most First Nations consider bears as a family. It is something that we are very closely related to.”