Stories

UNBC-photo-may-27-2010

Anne Marie Sam

The Canadian Boreal – a home endangered


photo credit Tim Swanky, UNBC “The land makes us who we are. What identity will my daughters have when our keyoh (traditional land holding) is a tailings pond? If the land is covered with a mine, then who are we going to be in the future? It's a scary thought, we can't just move to another place. It's our livelihood, our way of life, we still rely on the land for our food; it is a big part of who we are. Our territory is our responsibility; we can't just move around. The land is so sacred we are not supposed to talk about it. We are being forced to talk about it now because we have to defend it. We didn't talk about it before because it is just so sacred. It ...

Trina Flett

Trina Flett – Ochiwasahow- Our Responsibility

You have a choice. And a responsibility. Trina Flett would like you to think about that. Her home community sits on the shores of Lake Winnipeg surrounded by one of the largest tracts of boreal forest in Canada. The Ochiwasahow, Cree for Fisher Bay, Park Reserve provides interim protection from industrial developments, protecting the area's thriving biological diversity, long sandy beaches, old growth forests and the waters of the lake. As the planet's biggest land-based storehouse of carbon, the boreal forest provides a "filter" for clean air and fresh water. It also plays an important role in regulating global climate. The boreal forest is an essential part of the earth's life support system. It is also home to the Fisher River Cree Nation. The community depends on the boreal forest and the lake for traditional activities and ...

Peigi Wilson

Peigi Wilson, a Métis from Ontario, has worked for the United Nations Environment Program, the Assembly of First Nations, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and Environment Canada.  In her 18-year career as a lawyer and advocate, Peigi has promoted respect for the environment and Indigenous rights as a necessary joint objective.  In a recent discussion with Peigi about her Master of Laws thesis completed in 2009, Peigi discussed the importance of Indigenous participation in environmental governance. Environmental issues are a collective threat as all populations are affected. The loss of biological diversity threatens our resiliency; the loss of different ways of looking at the world or addressing a problem threatens our intellectual capacity to respond to threats.  Therefore, to ensure environmental protection, it is advised that different schools of thought be explored when creating environmental policy. “As our societies are interconnected, we need to come together to develop environmental legislation that ...

Liz Esquega

Lessons from the Land of the Sleeping Giant: An Interview with Liz Esquega

Even though Liz Esquega has learned much from Elders she works with in Winnipeg as the Coordinator for SEED Winnipeg's Aboriginal Community Collaborations, the lessons she received from her grandmother as a child were what originally informed her outlook on life – and her outlook on some pressing environmental issues facing Manitobans today. Liz  grew up in Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ontario, nestled against the shores and heaving surf of Lake Superior where one can stand and look upon the famous Sleeping Giant rock formation; a near perfect relief of some fantastic and colossal man slumbering atop the cold, black water.  From Thunder Bay, you can travel a little south into Fort William and eventually into a blanket of boreal forest and stand at the foot of Mount McKay.  This is where the community holds their annual ...

Thomas Beaudry

Thomas Beaudry grew up in the small Métis farming community of St. Claude Manitoba. He cited that although he always had an inherent respect for the land and the sustenance that it provided, he developed an appreciation for the land based on the teachings of his Father and Grandfather. Thomas explained that as a child, he would take food from the garden if he was hungry, but that his father had taught him to “always give something back”. Thomas indicated that it could be something as simple as an offering of Tobacco; that this very act brings about a sense of appreciation for the land. This very simple teaching has followed Thomas throughout his life and reminds us to honor the sacred balance between man and nature. As a youth, Thomas moved to the city of Winnipeg. He fell away from the environmental movement at that time, and it was not ...

Peggy and Stan Wilson

Dr. Peggy Wilson and Dr. Stan Wilson: Land-based Education

With their entire professional lives in the field of education, Drs. Stan Wilson and Dr. Peggy Wilson, recognizing the need for the participation of more Aboriginal people in postgraduate education, sought to introduce a Graduate Program in First Nations Education at the University of Alberta. Ten Aboriginal PhD students and 22 Aboriginal Masters students graduated in the ten years the Wilsons taught the program, all of their work stemming from an Indigenist Paradigm. Despite mandatory retirement, the two continued to work to deliver a unique Land-Based Education program which would offer Aboriginal educators the chance to acquire a Master's degree without giving up their teaching positions. The program effectively seeks to teach an alternate way of learning, one that places a high value on Indigenous knowledge. Not only is its relevancy as an educational ...

Chief Derek Nepinak

Chief Derek Nepinak

Chief Derek Nepinak may be one of the youngest people to ever be elected as chief, but at just 36 years old, his anecdotal musings are wonderfully apt at forwarding complex cultural perspectives with a well-seasoned ease. Chief Nepinak took office as Chief of Pine Creek First Nation, a community with a membership of nearly 3000 located on the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipegosis, in January of 2009. He has a B.A. (Honours) degree in Native Studies from the University of Alberta, and an L.L.B. law degree from the University of Saskatchewan. He's also completed the Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources & Government, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto. But perhaps most insightful is his faith in his Elders wisdom, he comments, “I will be speaking my heart, based on the teachings I've received from my Elders and they ...

Maria M’Lot

Maria M’Lot

Growing up, Maria M'Lot witnessed various researchers and scientists come into her community of Cross Lake, Manitoba. The majority came, conducted their field work and left with little to no interaction with community members. “They came and left, never sending a report or summary of their work, so nobody really knew what they were doing,” says Maria. Years later, Maria is a researcher herself working with a First Nation-directed environmental non-profit organization, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER), on environmental issues including the protection of the boreal forest. Unlike the researchers that came to her community, Maria recognizes the importance as well as immense value in working alongside First Nations, citing that despite her education and hands-on experience, “I am not the expert, the Elders and community members I work with are the experts.” Growing up in the boreal forest ...

Valerie Courtois

Valerie Courtois

Valerie Courtois has been involved in some of the most exciting issues developing in boreal forest conservation in Canada. With modest intentions that started with a decision to swap environmental sciences for enrolment in the University of Moncton's forestry sciences program, ‘the hand's on' approach was – and still is - the factor which motivates her. After completing university, Valerie was recruited by Assembly of First Nations (AFN) of Quebec and Labrador as a Forestry Advisor. Here she received an introduction to Aboriginal forestry which was, Valerie admits frustrating, because it lacked the on-the-ground experience she wanted. So when a job came up at the Innu Nation - her nation - as a Forest Planner it was an exciting and logical next move. “Up until this point there had been no industrial tenure in Labrador, new industry was being built, ...

Kaaren Dannenmann

Kaaren Dannenmann

“Aboriginal, boreal and caribou are one together,” states Kaaren Dannenmann, a local Anishinaape trapper from Namekosipiink, Trout Lake, Ontario. Kaaren grew up in the heart of the boreal forest. Her Mother is a member of the Trout Lake Caribou Clan, and her father was originally from Norway. Kaaren left Trout Lake as a teenager, going to school and returning to her homeland after she had children. She learned from her relations how to live in an environment which promoted a spiritual relationship to the land and, in particular, the caribou. “Caribou have always been really important to us, there is a spiritual connection. When they migrate back in the spring time it is really uplifting to see them and be amongst them,” she says. She was taught the Teachings and ceremonies of Atik, the caribou, to honour and ...