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Thomas BeaudryOctober 16th, 2010
By Lindsay Kavalench
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 until he became involved with the Prairie Buffalo and Red Smoke Productions Theater Company that he began reconnecting with art and the interplay on human land use ethic. He spoke in an impassioned way about “how the appreciation of land was taken away to make room for people” during the time of colonization. Many of his plays focused on these issues.
Thomas was influenced by the land ethic that was instilled and passed down to him by his family. His exploration and challenge of traditional and western land use practices over the years has provided him with a more holistic understanding of the issues currently facing our nation.
Today, Thomas is the Community Liaison Heritage Resource Extension Officer with Manitoba Conservation. He assists communities in reviewing the legislation that may affect aboriginal rights and attempts to combine traditional and western knowledge in order to facilitate a better understanding of the impact that land use planning will have on our environment. Thomas cited that western science would benefit from consulting with Elders in the community regarding migration patterns of animals and the changes in the animal population. He indicated that at times, Scientists do not take the time to consult with the communities that are in close contact with the animals being studied, and instead adhere to more intrusive tactics of tagging animals which can cause physical stress on them. Thomas cited that animal populations “ebb and flow” due to a number of reasons, such as climate change and the encroachment of people on their habitats. He suggests that less intrusive methods that place value on traditional knowledge, may lead to better research.
When asked to explain why the Boreal Forest is important to him, Thomas indicated that it provides a livelihood for the people. Thomas believes in the importance of sustainable development. He does not believe that all development should be stopped, but indicated that current practices could be improved. Thomas has been a part of the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin project, which is Oji Cree for “East Side of Lake Winnipeg Governance”. It was an initiative that identified the need for Broad Area Plans for the province of Manitoba. In particular it identified the East Side of Lake Winnipeg as a unique region of the province that has a vast expanse of undeveloped, contiguous, boreal forest which is at risk due to climate change. Thomas indicated that some First Nation Communities located on the East Side of Winnipeg would benefit from the development of an all-season road. He indicated that these communities can become isolated due to the lack of reliable roads and transportation networks, which increases the cost of food in the communities, and reduces their access to social services.
In his current role, Thomas assists with facilitating the interests of the First Nations Communities, with those of Manitoba Conservation, and that of Industry. Thomas states that “looking after the environment is key” and when asked how he measures success, he stated “When both sides agree”. Thomas indicated that since beginning his position as a Community Liaison Officer, he has seen positive strides such as when the First Nation community coordinators were able to attend training sessions in land planning, use and occupancy mapping and GIS that was paid for by Manitoba Conservation.