CPAWS at Poplar River Youth Camp

Ron Thiessen, CPAWS Manitoba Executive Director

Chanda and I have recently returned from an enriching and enlightening trip to Weaver Lake in Poplar River First Nation’s traditional territory. Nestled within the intact wilderness on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, the Poplar River community is working to protect 8000 square kilometers of their traditional lands and waters from industrial developments.

Poplar River First Nation is also part of an initiative with other boreal communities in the region to establish a 40,000 square kilometer World Heritage Site straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border. I was invited to be a role model at their annual youth camp designed to connect Aboriginal Youth to the natural landscape and learn traditional knowledge.

Poplar River

We were fortunate to speak with the 14-20 year olds about CPAWS’ conservation efforts and provide opportunities to get involved in caring for the planet through jobs and volunteering. We all learned great lessons such as the history of the sweat lodge and we were lucky to participate in fun games and work our vocal cords with traditional Aboriginal songs.

While there, we asked the kids how they felt about safeguarding the Boreal Forest. Here’s what they said…

We like to camp out  here, there's great  sight-seeing and  I think it's important  that we protect our  traditional lands  so it remains this way. - Courtney Douglas, 15Courtney Douglas

Evan ValiquetteIt is good to protect the land so it isn't ruined, so the waters don't get  poisoned, so the heavy  construction doesn't  chase away the game.   Designating the land  as a World Heritage Site would open up a lot of jobs,  especially in eco-tourism. - Evan Valiquette, 18

Michelle Bruce

It is important to protect Mother Earth because we live here.  Animals live here too. Trees give us oxygen so cutting them down  technically means suicide. - Michelle Bruce, 15

Linde BerensWe camp here; my uncle  hunts here, so it's important  that the water and the  environment are clean. I came here to listen and  to learn from the Elders. - Linde Berens, 14

Whitney Bittern

You don't see this in other places very often, these tall trees - you never  know how long they've been around – this clean lake.   This is beautiful where I am right now. I would love to make sure that  my children know who they are; their ancestors are from here.   This is where we belong. I don't think many people see that it's so  beautiful here. I'm very glad my aunty [Sophia Rabliauskas] is doing  something so that other people will know what's here. - Whitney Bittern, 18

Natasha Bruce

Protecting the land shows the next generation to be positive  and to keep the land clean as we did. It is important to keep  the environment clean and to respect the land.   If we can continue to have the camps I want teach the next  generation what my ancestors have taught me. - Natasha Bruce, 15

Alex Mekaile-BerensIt is important to keep  the land pristine.  This land belongs to us,  it's welcome to anybody,  but we've taken care  of it and will continue  to protect it. - Alex Mekaile-Berens, 16

Learn More and Take Action

Pimachiowin Aki Learn more about the First Nations quest to a establish a 40,000 square km World Heritage Site in the intact lands and waters straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border.

www.pimachiowinaki.org/

Poplar River First Nation Poplar River First Nation’s journey to protecting 8000 square kilometers of their traditional territory from industrial developments.

www.poplarriverfirstnation.ca/poplar_river_park.htm

To conveniently let Premier Selinger know how you feel about the World Heritage Site and granting First Nation land protection requests, please click here.