Chapter 2 - Working Together to Protect Our Heritage
At What is Valued: A Forum for the discussion of conservation issues concerning First Nations totem poles1 , held in Alert Bay, British Columbia, in 2004, a Stanford University representative pulled aside a forum organizer. "I don't think you know what you have done here," she whispered. Fearing the worst, and imagining that sensitivities had unwittingly been inflamed, the organizer asked her what she meant. "I have just had a 20-minute conversation with Beau Dick," she enthused referring to the accomplished Tsawatainuk First Nation carver. "To put that into perspective, that's like having a personal interview with Vincent Van Gogh were he still alive!"
Her awe underlines how putting together the right people in the right mix benefits everyone. The impetus for this forum came from a number of conversations, over a period of several years, with owners and managers of national historic sites. When discussing the state of totem poles or wooden remains and various current wood conservation practices, conversations would always start with "wouldn't it be nice if…" So, when Parks Canada and Indigenous communities planned for this forum, it was decided to have an equal number of Indigenous representatives and conservation professionals to prevent museum specialists from dominating the conversation. An environment of trust and respect enabled all participants to engage in intense and productive discussions on varying techniques and cultural perspectives on appropriate intervention for conservation purposes. The emotional pain occasionally revealed in association with some past conservation attempts made everyone more aware of how projects should be approached. Since then, three subsequent forums have been held, the last two organised by Canadian Conservation Institute, further demonstrating the power of partnerships and bringing together the right people and organisations.
The House Lake Cemetery Re-conditioning Project2 at Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada is an example of how a project can bring together generations. This Dene ancestral cemetery was in use up to around 1925, just before the park's creation. Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) were concerned about the poor state of the cemetery. They were also interested in locating all historic settlements and associated cemeteries in the area, especially while there is still living memory of these places amongst community members. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's proposal to document burial sites and historic settlements, and do maintenance work to restore the cemetery, emphasized Dene youth and elder involvement. The ancestral stories that elders shared as everyone worked together with park staff to remove vegetation and identify gravesites created a greater bond among all of the participants. The project removed some of the alienation the community felt by reconnecting young and old to the park through historic preservation and oral history. It has also significantly expanded the park's awareness of the landscape's past, which enriches visitor experiences.
Sharing Our Knowledge
Responding to calls for assistance can often turn into benefits for parks. The Medicinal Plants Trail project in collaboration with Fort Folly First Nation3 was initiated after Fort Folly First Nation asked Fundy National Park for help to design a medicinal plants walking trail with interpretive panels on the community's land. Discussions led to working together on a panel design that could also be reproduced and adopted for a trail within Fundy National Park of Canada. On the Acadian coast, the Migmag Cedar Trail4 in Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada is a blend of both Migmag values and knowledge and Parks Canada's commitment to protect and present natural and cultural heritage for all time. The project was done in collaboration with Elders from Elsipogtog First Nation. A Migmag community member recorded in Migmag, French and English the audio components that are accessible on four of the seven solar powered trail panels. A native artist provided the artwork on two of the trail panels. On October 5, 2005, more than 120 people from Elsipogtog First Nation, park staff and representatives from surrounding communities came together to celebrate the official opening of the Migmag Cedar Trail.
Sometimes it works the other way around. At Terra Nova National Park of Canada, the Erioderma Inventory Project5 has resulted in Parks Canada benefitting from the expertise that members of the Miawpukek First Nation have developed in identifying rare Boreal Felt Lichen. Erioderma pedicellatum, commonly known as Boreal Felt Lichen, was at one time found in Norway, Sweden and Atlantic Canada. However, it is a now such a rare species that it is believed Newfoundland may hold 99% of the world's population and be its' last hope for survival. Since staff of the Miawpukek First Nation Natural Resources Department knew how to identify and locate the lichen, and staff at Terra Nova National Park of Canada didn't have that expertise, they worked together to set up a "lichen locating blitz". The four-day expedition found a total of eight specimens in the park and familiarized park staff with the endangered species and its likely habitat.
The Nunavut Ecological Theme Project – Using Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Knowledge) in Management, Research and Monitoring6 is enabling Parks Canada to improve its monitoring and comprehension of remote national parks. Nunavut national parks are vast landscapes where learning, monitoring and reporting for ecological integrity present a number of unique challenges. The knowledge of local Inuit communities is filling important gaps regarding the region's ecology and helping staff and researchers gain a better understanding of a changing environment. Elders, students, hunters and trappers, as well as Parks Canada staff, took part in this 5-year project. Focusing mostly on sea ice, the project documented a variety of ice conditions and gained expert advice from elders and hunters on approaches to conservation, safety and management practices while on the land. The project also included research into Inuit and scientific knowledges of arctic animals such as the arctic fox, the red fox and the snow geese. It also created opportunities for Inuit youth to become more knowledgeable and engaged in park activities, which increases the chances of their future involvement as employees or volunteers.
In 2010, the members of the project were awarded the Chief Executive Officer Awards of Excellence in the "Engaging Partners" category : "Your extraordinary contribution as an engaging partner through the Inuit Knowledge Project, which promotes traditional knowledge and science, your leadership and your commitment are greatly valued and appreciated. " - Alan Latourelle, CEO, Parks Canada
Working Around Obstacles
Traditional Knowledge Sharing and Partnership Development with Nakoda First Nations and Banff National Park of Canada 2002-2010 7 shows the possibilities of true collaboration even when there appears to be major obstacles in forming a partnership. The preparation of the environmental assessment required for the Indian Days revival - one of Canada's oldest documented Indigenous festivals - made it clear that regardless of where matters stood with treaty negotiations, there were numerous mutual benefits to prompt Parks Canada and the Stoney Nakoda to work together. The Memorandum of Understanding signed as a result of discussions firmed the commitment by all Chiefs and Council of Nakoda First Nations and Parks Canada to become better acquainted, to learn each other's ways and to incorporate Indigenous and scientific knowledges in wildlife and landscape management. Since then, members of the Nakoda First Nations and Parks Canada staff have shared many kilometres on horseback and nights spent under the stars near campfires on backcountry trails to follow the paths known to the Stoney Nakoda. More than a few pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, cultural demonstrations, family camps and social gatherings have happened, resulting in a sharing of knowledge, sage advice and direction on wildlife management and animal behaviour, as well as long term historical perspective on the landscape that forms Banff National Park of Canada. Opportunities are now being sought to employ Nakoda people at the park.
QUOTE: "As one of our Stoney Authors has stated "these mountains are our sacred places". We looked forward to a new beginning with Banff National Park. " – Hank Snow, Councillor for the Wesley Band Nakoda First Nations
A request by local Indigenous communities to engage in specialized park activities led to the Elk Island Park Bison Handling Workshop8. Since 1907, Elk Island National Park of Canada has played a major role in the conservation of both plains bison and wood bison as some of the world's last plains bison were brought to the park and the species began its recovery from the brink of extinction. During the park's history, Elk Island has successfully provided a total of 855 wood bison, 1014 plains bison, and 4633 elk to conservation initiatives benefiting the species. Relocations have been made in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Yukon Territory. Internationally, the Park has supported the relocation of elk to Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. In 2006, 30 wood bison were sent to Russia, and in 2008, 54 were transferred to Alaska. In March of 2011, 30 more wood bison were transferred to Lenskie Stolby Nature Park in the Republic of Sakha, Russia. In 1992, Parks Canada entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc. , representing six First Nations in the region. This resulted in the park providing 30 wood bison to be boarded on Whitefish Lake First Nation land with the understanding that as the herd grew, the offspring would be shared with member communities. During the one-day workshop that was held, a staff member's presentation covered the park's history, best practices for bison handling and disease management. The group later travelled to the bison handling facility where the bison transfer process was described in detail. Response to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive and there was a keen interest for other such opportunities.
QUOTE: "It is important to look at the spirituality and culture of the bison. It was part of North America culture for thousands of years. It is only right that they come home". – Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper, Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement
The Stock Assessment and Restoration of the Atlantic Salmon in the Richibucto River9 illustrates what can happen if everyone keeps an open mind. Elsipogtog First Nation has always disputed how the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) calculated fish stocks in its decision to close the region's fishery. Initiating a complete reassessment by their own trained Fishery Study Team in 2004, the community approached Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada for logistical and scientific assistance. For three years, salmons were captured and studied to measure the state of the health of the salmon populations in the Richibucto River along with a restoration scheme using Indigenous knowledge and scientific protocols. When assessment funds ran out, park management included the salmon project in its Action on the Ground program and extended the project's life until 2013. Management recognized the potential long-term benefits to future visitors of the salmon project's collection of brood stock to restore the population. This project also demonstrates that science and Indigenous knowledges are not antagonistic but rather complementary and can both be used for conservation efforts.
Local involvement can be pivotal in addressing ecological concerns. The Recovery of Endangered Species in Fundy National Park in Partnership with the Fort Folly First Nation10 is urgently working to protect what remains of the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon. Historically exceeding 40,000, for unknown reasons the population is now fewer than 200 genetically distinct wild salmon. Fort Folly First Nation has only 106 residents but the community has been of tremendous help to Fundy National Park of Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They are a member of the Recovery Team that conducted recovery experiments using the best-known technology for establishing and maintaining living gene banks. The program is also helping tag fish with acoustic or satellite telemetry to determine what happens to the salmon in the ocean. Because of their cultural and economic importance, the loss of the Atlantic salmon would be devastating to the Mi'kmaq, the Wolastoqiyik and the Passamaquoddy peoples. The project has created a synergy and an understanding between Indigenous communities and Parks Canada, resulting in a program that far exceeds what either group would be capable of doing on their own.
Scaling Up Successes
The same group is also part of a larger initiative that demonstrates the potential for expanding a project's scope once a successful framework has been established. The Parks Canada Atlantic Service Centre is collaborating with various Indigenous communities, federal departments and conservation agencies towards Ensuring the Future of American Eel in Atlantic Canada. In addition to being a vital indicator of a freshwater ecosystem's health, eels - or Katew as they are known by Indigenous peoples - were used as an important food source, medicinal ingredient and for ceremonial purposes. Today, Katew is also economically important as a fishery. First Nation partners are combining Indigenous knowledge and field data to inform park management decisions about this species of concern. Started in 2008 with Fundy National Park of Canada, Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada, and Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada, the project was expanded in 2010 to include all seven national parks in Atlantic Canada. Uniting efforts and resources in a multi-park framework is increasing efficiencies in determining the status of Katew in Atlantic Canada's national parks.
Nah?ą Dehé Traditional Harvesting Protocols 12 at Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada exemplifies how establishing a structure and good rapport before concerns arise can facilitate better and faster resolutions. When Nahanni Butte community members noticed that not everyone who harvested plants and animals in the park was following appropriate Indigenous cultural methods and showing the necessary respect to animals and the lands and waters upon which they depend, they expressed their concerns through the Nah?ą Dehé Consensus Team. This co-operative management team set up for the park had been created in 2000 with three Parks Canada members, four Dehcho First Nations representatives and two Nahanni Butte spokespeople. The team agreed to assist the community of Nahanni Butte in preparing a publication to help spread the word about Indigenous harvesting protocols. The workshops and pamphlet - Nahʔą Dehé K'éodíi – Taking Care of Nahʔą Dehé - created in consultation with the Consensus Team, are based on the Dene principles of sharing and respect and have made the protocols very clear to ensure people's safety, protect the park's ecology, respect wildlife and maintain resources for future generations.
The White-Tailed Deer Herd Reduction and Sustainable Plant Harvest13 in St Lawrence Island National Park of Canada demonstrates how the harvesting expertise of an Indigenous community can help to restore ecological balance. Excessive browsing by an overabundant deer population was causing plants important to the Kanienkehaka (Mohawks) of Akwesasne to almost disappear. Consultations with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and local residents led to support for the Mohawk reducing the heard by a total of 59 deer over three years, with the meat being used for the community's traditional winter ceremony. As a result, many rare plants are rebounding along with species that haven't been seen in decades.
Establishing informal and formal cooperative programs for wildlife management is often difficult as there are few established forums to allow this type of communication and consultation. In some cases, it can also be a challenge for Indigenous communities to establish joint management goals and objectives between themselves and Parks Canada. In Riding Mountain National Park of Canada, the First Nation Wildlife Council14 was created to help support communication and consultation between 7 First Nations surrounding the park and Parks Canada. It also encourages Indigenous knowledge transfer and capacity building within the 7 First Nations and supports best practices in wildlife population management. There are currently multiple wildlife management issues within the region, including wildlife disease monitoring and management such as Ungulate TB transmission. Under the leadership of the First Nation Wildlife Council, a historic herd reduction was done involving First Nations from Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation and Rolling River First Nation. For the first time, the herd reduction was done not via helicopter but through ground removal.
Consultation is usually the key to establishing an effective force through a consensus-building approach. The Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program (PADEMP)15 initiated by Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada started out with park staff meeting with representatives of all 11 of the park's Indigenous community partners in 2008 to gauge interest in monitoring one of the world's largest freshwater deltas for signs of stress from industrial development. The delta, which lies within the Mackenzie River watershed and is currently undergoing considerable industrial development, has long been recognized as an extremely productive ecosystem, supporting a diverse range of terrestrial and aquatic species. It has been recognized as a wetland of international importance under the United Nations RAMSAR designation and the delta contributed to the recognition of Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada as a World Heritage Site since 80% of the delta lakes and wetlands are within the park boundaries. Within two years, the membership expanded to include a total of 17 Indigenous communities, conservation groups and federal and provincial government agencies. They meet regularly and have developed a consensus based approach to identifying goals and conducting work. The program and its working committees are accomplishing research much faster than Parks Canada could do alone.
The Investigation and Remediation of Stokes Point, Former Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Site16 shows how simply being approachable can result in environmental improvements. Ivvavik National Park of Canada was formed in 1984 and has the distinction of being the first national park created from a modern Indigenous Land Claim. When Parks Canada established the park, the landscape had already been used extensively, an over the years no detailed investigation of contaminants left behind was ever conducted. Past clean-up effort at Stokes Point had always been piecemeal, making it unsafe for people and animals. The project was initiated following concerns that were raised by Indigenous residents of Aklavik, the Aklavik Community Corporation, and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation regarding the contamination brought on by abandoned old garage, warehouses, petroleum, oil and lubricant storage facilities and other highly toxic contaminants such as PCBs. Parks Canada and the Inuvialuit worked together to investigate the site and to clean up contaminated soil and debris, making Stokes Point healthier for wildlife and the continued subsistence of Inuvialuit. It made this project the largest contaminated site cleanup project undertaken by the Agency. Local and Indigenous knowledges were also important to this project; information gathered from eight Inuvialuit Elders was combined with scientific knowledge to help design the investigation and make sure that "no stone was left unturned". 95% of the economic benefits from the clean-up went to Inuvialuit companies and workforce through a competitive national tendering process.
Appreciating the value of differing opinions is part of the approach towards the Indigenous Consultation on Fire Management Plan. 17 Fire management by Indigenous peoples has a long history North America. Indigenous people's cultural connection to the land and their practices of fire management has shaped the landscape all across this continent. For decades, in Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, Traditional Users of the park (hunters and trappers) have been employed as fire fighters. Indigenous harvesters protect their interests and park staff benefit from having employees who share their Indigenous knowledge and values with respect to fire management. "Fire Control", as it was called in the park's early years, has evolved into the current Fire Management Program, the largest in Parks Canada in terms of resources and operational activities. As the "interim" Fire Management Plan dates back to 1989 and decades of fire data has been accumulated, it is time to develop a new Fire Management Plan. The consultations with 11 Indigenous communities are expected to generate significant discussion. It is hoped they will give the park a better understanding of the ecological, social and economic implications of letting an area burn as opposed to suppressing flames.
- Pay A Visit. You are more likely to develop a rapport faster with people if you take the time to get to know people in their own environment, where they are more likely to be comfortable speaking with you and can show examples of what they mean.
- Take Your Time. Building meaningful relationships and trust cannot be rushed. Hurrying efforts or creating false deadlines can delay success.
- Keep An Open Mind. A notion that seems unfounded might simply need time to be proven right or might just be the spark for discussing further ideas. Two seemingly different viewpoints or cultural practices can come together in the spirit of respect and a desire to understand each other, as seen in the pole conservation workshop.
- Brainstorm. Many of the best projects start off by people saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if…"
- Create Synergy. Talking with various stakeholders will likely generate broader interest, support and participation and ultimately, results.
- Encourage Stewardship. Making people aware of their stake in a project forges their long-term connection to it and its successful outcome.
- Bank On It. Investigate the possibilities of participants leveraging different financial mechanisms to fund a co-operative effort. Be mindful that sharing the cost of a project also means sharing the decisions.
- Know When To Let Go. Although Parks Canada initiated the forum on pole conservation, the Canadian Conservation Institute took charge of organizing the last two events, dedicating financial and human resources to their success.
1 John McCormick, Senior Policy Advisor, Indigenous Consultation, Indigenous Affairs Branch, Tel: (819) 934-8365, E-mail: email@example.com, or Greg Thomas, Cultural Resource Manager, Western and Northern Service Centre, Tel: (204) 983-6802, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Laura Peterson, Cultural Resource Management, Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, Tel: (867) 872-7936, email@example.com
3 Nadine Gauvin, External Relations Manager, Fundy National Park of Canada, Tel: (506) 887-6393, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Victor Savoie, Heritage Presentation Coordinator, Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada, Tel: (506) 876-1263, E-mail: email@example.com
5 Kirby Tulk, Park Ecologist, Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada, Tel: (709) 533-3129, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 Dr. Micheline Manseau, Ecosystem Scientist, Western and Northern Canada Service Centre, Tel: (204) 983-8885, E-mail: email@example.com, or Gary Mouland, Resource Conservation Manager, Tel: (867) 975-4762, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other publications from the Project are also available on the web under the "Publications" tab http://lecol-ck.ca/index.php?pid=48 and under the Inuit Knowledge/Literature and documents tab http://lecol-ck.ca/index.php?pid=126
7 Dennis Herman, Advisor, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks of Canada, Tel: (250) 347-6169, E-mail: Dennis.Herman@pc.gc.ca
8 Archie Handel, Resource Conservation and Public Safety, Elk Island National Park, Tel: (780) 992-2950, E-mail: email@example.com
9 Eric Tremblay, Ecosystem Scientist, Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada, Tel: (506) 876-2443, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
10 Renee Wissink, Ecosystem Scientist, Fundy National Park of Canada, Tel: (506) 887-6098, E-mail: email@example.com
12 Douglas Tate, Conservation Biologist and Member of the Nah?ą Dehé Consensus Team, Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada, Tel: (867) 695-3151, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
13 Jeff Leggo, Superintendent, St Lawrence Island National Park of Canada, Tel: (613) 923-5261, E-mail: email@example.com
14 Mark Young, Manager, First Nations Program, Riding Mountain National Park of Canada, Tel: (204) 848-7134, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
15 Stuart Macmillan, Resource Conservation Manager and Chair of the PADEMP Steering Committee, Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, Tel: (867) 872-7938, E-mail: email@example.com
16 Nelson Perry, Ecosystem Scientist, Western Arctic Field Unit, Tel: (867) 777-8810, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or John Snell, Contaminated Sites Specialist, Western and Northern Canada Service Centre, Tel: (403) 292-4469, E-mail: email@example.com, Ed McLean, Consultation Advisor, Western and Northern Canada Service Centre, Tel: (204) 983-8918, firstname.lastname@example.org.
17 Jeff Dixon, Resource Conservation Supervisor II, Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada, Tel: (867) 872-7964, E-mail: email@example.com
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