How can we create and manage protected areas in the spirit and practice of reconciliation? How can we decolonize conservation and pursue opportunities to protect the natural world that honour Indigenous responsibilities, rights and interests? These questions are forefront in my mind as I strive with colleagues, friends and kindred spirits to protect at least 17% of our lands and waters by 2020.
The report and summary video, Indigenous Perspectives on Protected Areas, provide a guiding light. They are based on a gathering hosted last fall in Peterborough by Plenty Canada, Walpole Island Land Trust, Ontario Nature and the Indigenous Environmental Science/Studies program at Trent University.
Indigenous voices prevail in both the video and report – voices from as far north as Moose Cree First Nation and as far south as Bkejwanong (Walpole Island First Nation). They are crystal clear about the vital importance of Indigenous languages, traditional teachings and knowledge and governance systems to the conservation of biodiversity – and about the need to work together across cultures towards shared goals. If you’re seeking inspiration, take a look – and let me know what you think!
The conversation is still in the early stages, but gaining momentum fast. The partner organizations are hosting another gathering in London Ontario next week (May 28 – 30). One of the key topics for discussion will be the report and recommendations of the national Indigenous Circle of Experts – We Rise Together. If you’re interested in Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, it’s a must read.