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  • » Connecting the Dots with Kevin Brownlee | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    what I did and was a symbol that the First Nation community accepted me said Brownlee As he tells me more about his past the importance and personal gravity of that acceptance becomes clearer Born to a Cree father from Norway House and a non Aboriginal mother in the early 1970 s Kevin Brownlee s birth parents put him up for adoption Subsequently raised off the reserve Kevin was fortunate to have adopted parents that made significant efforts to expose him to his cultural identity even though they were non Aboriginal He recalls outings to ceremonies in Souix Valley and collecting arrowheads with his uncle near Souris MB What began as a child s recreational interest in Aboriginal culture and archaeology blossomed into a life long passion to connect to his own past and rebuild the history of Canada s first inhabitants To this end Brownlee now the first First Nation person to act as a curator of archaeology at a mainstream Museum in Canada has been working on some remarkable finds In particular he has recently been shown places where First Nation people had been mining into bedrock for quartz to use in the production of arrowheads and other stone tools Even though quartz is not the best material for stone tools they put in an incredible effort maybe thousands of years worth doing this Brownlee says marveling at the 24 long by 8 wide by 7 deep pit where the mining occurred First Nations heritage is often sacrificed with development with each artifact that gets lost so does another page from the history books of Aboriginal people But the most fascinating thing of all Kevin explains is that quartz has many trace elements and minerals in it it s like a fingerprint He goes on to explain that because of this work can now be done to identify which stone tools came from where and ancient boreal forest trade networks can be mapped It is a remarkable concept with big implications for fleshing out the history of Canada s first inhabitants In Manitoba alone that history stretches back over 10 000 years pre dating ancient Mesopotamia and Sumer But all is not well Industrial developments in the boreal forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg are advancing at a faster pace than archaeologists can work and Kevin Brownlee has seen first hand the problems that can cause My first exposure to impacted areas was in northern Manitoba where hydro projects accelerated erosion says Brownlee First Nations heritage is often sacrificed with development When development occurs it s that top layer of soil that gets impacted where our history is buried says Brownlee adding that with each artifact that gets lost so does another page from the history books of Aboriginal people Brownlee suggests that industry needs to look at the bigger picture because doing so would benefit everyone He sites instances in Nelson House where Aboriginal educators William and Margaret Dumas were teaching school children about their

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/84/connecting-the-dots-with-kevin-brownlee (2016-02-09)
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  • » Denise Henning and Rob Penner | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    re looking at what technology can be implemented here in northern Manitoba that can reduce energy consumption within our regions said Penner As an institution we re going to be adopting green technologies within the buildings that we re putting up It s more than just talking about sustainability it s also demonstrating sustainability and what we do as an institution Penner added And there is a lot the institution does UCN has over 2 600 students in its two main campuses in the Pas and Thompson and twelve regional centres across the Boreal Forest s northern communities It is Manitoba s newest post secondary institution one guided by sustainable development and natural conservation UCN is involved in various research projects around the Boreal forest An example of one such project is the non timber forest products research and development Through this project UCN researchers partner with Boreal Forest communities like Moose Lake and Cranberry Portage to develop small industries based on renewable resources found in the area If determined these resources can be harvested in a sustainable manner overtime UCN enters a long term agreement with the communities and helps them develop small scale industries around the resource Thus indigenous resources like essential oils or herbal medicines are turned into sources of profit for local residents many of whom are UCN students themselves Other UCN programs like Natural Resource Management and a short term Wilderness Skills in the forest also focus on teaching students Boreal Forest conservation and examining the area s natural cycles environment and habitat Examining the interdependence of human beings with the forest is an important aspect of the program It s a holistic program that looks at all aspects of the biogeography of the Boreal Forest and looks at it with a holistic perspective in the sense that everything we do is related to everything else said Penner New research projects focused on climate change and how it relates to the Boreal Forest are also being initiated All these programs intend to find northern solutions to northern problems said Henning They enrich the lives of local communities and encourage the conservation and prosperity of the area We re situated in the Boreal Forest so a part of our mandate is to serve the people and communities that have lived and worked in the area and learn from them We have a long history of people living and working in a sustainable manner within this environment and there s a lot we can learn from the people that we serve We recognize that UCN and its researchers have a significant contribution to make to furthering an understanding of the role of the Boreal Forest Unlike many other projects around the Boreal Forest development does not come at the expense of conservation at UCN Our development in our science areas is directly related to Boreal Forest research and resource sustainability said Henning There s major economic development that s going on in the North and we have

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/82/managing-the-lungs-of-the-earth (2016-02-09)
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  • » Margaret Dumas | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    the years and I realize that many other people in Fox Lake must have similar stories When Margaret reveals how her family was impacted during the early days of the fur trade it becomes obvious to me that the social affects of development and colonization have been at play in the communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg for a long time Margaret s grandmother was born in York Factory a place with a history deeply interwoven with that of Canada s fur trade and home to Cree people who were later relocated by the federal government to present day York Landing It was in York Factory where the British and French contended for the control of the lucrative trading post and a place where the cultures of the indigenous people in the area and Europeans collided It is a place where part of the history of a new nation was being written and another part of the land where colonization had begun When Margaret was there last year she had the opportunity to view some of the artifacts from that era I had this sense of nostalgia she tells me It s like I had been there before We have to start giving back to the Earth but how will mining give back It will take the Earth thousands of years to repair itself They have to try harder From the tone in Margaret s voice I can sense there is something mysterious reverberating in her being something deep inside that can still feel the ancient ways of her ancestors being transformed as Europeans established themselves on the traditional territory of the Cree As she goes on to tell me the stories of when industrial development started its advance into her father s home area of Pikwitonei and

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/79/margaret-dumas (2016-02-09)
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  • » William Dumas | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    s diet mysteriously disappeared from the area for approximately 30 or 35 years Without the great amounts of meat supplied by the caribou the community of South Indian Lake was forced to supplement their diets with foods that could be purchased at The Hudson s Bay store But as South Indian Lake was without electricity and deep freezers the store provided mostly canned goods This dramatic change to the community s diet included the consumption of many starches and sugars which in turn ushered in a new threat to the well being of the people living there Diabetes It is explained to me that in his wife s community there was not even a word for it until recently By the time his wife Margaret turned 12 years old the disease exploded throughout their population and the terrible scourge of diabetes was known The threat of industry was not far behind Mining and hydro electric development was expanding and multi national logging companies such as Tolko began devouring the forests These companies maintain their ravenous and relentless pursuit of the Earth s riches leaving behind a wake of thankless destruction As such many First Nations people have been forced to adapt A lot of people in northern Manitoba have become gardeners he tells me Hunters and fishers like him and his brother are finding other ways of using the land in a way that is nurturing and productive He tells me that sharing is a part of this and that there is a great feeling you get from sharing something that you have cultivated and harvested whether it is a jar of pickles from your garden or a moose that you have hunted When he tells me of this I am quickly reminded of my grandmother who passed away only three days prior to this interview I share with him some stories of watching my grandmother tend to her garden for hours on end and then provide the family with the bounty she had cultivated She was a Mennonite woman who had grown up on a farm in southern Manitoba and she too shared a deep connection to the Earth She was a keen observer of its cycles and held a deep appreciation and respect for all its splendor He is quick to add that a failing of our society is to talk more about our differences than about what we have in common If you are close to the Earth you will understand the teachings of our people William says to me Regardless of your theological background While there is much to lament regarding the destruction of the Earth and his traditional lands he shares with me his sympathy for those working for the industries that perpetrate such heinous crimes against the Earth The problem is systemic I ve seen those guys working for Hydro up by Gillam What do they do on the weekends They go fishing He explains to me that working on the land is a

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/76/william-dumas (2016-02-09)
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  • » Marla Robson | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    on boats to learn about water its importance to the gilled ones and other animals Sadly as I have aged they have also told me about its negative changes and how those changes have impacted everything else along the way leading directly back to us Through daily life they taught me about recognizing your place and your part to have humility and to be truly thankful They also taught me to show creation I understand those things by being resourceful instead of wasteful and to recognize the difference between need and want It may seem odd but I cannot recall a single moment where anyone sat me down and told me these things instead I think I was shown I am sure those early teachings guided me through high school a bachelor degree in environmental sciences and through the initial stages of my career Not surprisingly it is those early teachings that are my touchstones where strength comes from and where inspiration to continue along this path originates While in school I was fortunate to learn from both a team of Elders as well as professionals and instructors within the western knowledge system It strengthened the belief in me that in order to move forward in a good way both systems need to work together continuing down the same path and work towards common goals One need not merge into the other but instead they should continue along side one another on an equal plane I think this idea applies to most things but especially to boreal conservation and issues related to the environment While working internationally I saw this occurring as an Australian conservation organisation began working with Aboriginals to conserve environmentally and culturally significant wild spaces in a way that respected both ways of knowing Since my return to Canada I have seen this work progress in Australia and have witnessed it occurring here in Manitoba as well Since 2004 my work in Canada has been heavily involved in projects related to First Nations and the environment especially in relation to climate change It has been an intense time of greater understanding that has only deepened my resolve to conserve and protect the boreal During this past year I worked on a project that related to adaptation to climate change and its impacts for First Nations across southern Canada All forests including the boreal are at risk whether it is from increases in pests droughts or forest fires The boreal produces the very air we breathe and it draws in the carbon we fill the atmosphere with helping to curb one of the primary drivers for global climate change All the while my heart and cheek pressed against a hot rocky outcrop sun beaming down on us and it was in that moment that I recognized how intensely connected I am to this place While in school I was fortunate to learn from both a team of Elders as well as professionals and instructors within the western knowledge

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/72/marla-robson (2016-02-09)
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  • » Sophia Bittern Rabliauskas | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    faced by herself and her community her feelings on industrial development the forest and the future When we finally connect on the telephone I introduce myself Already it is obvious from some of the words coming from Sophia that she is a community builder She thanks me for the work I did with the Wilderness Committee toward protecting her traditional territory in 2004 and acknowledges that even though it can be challenging when resources are limited by working together to protect this forest we will make a global contribution Her words are affirming and I feel instant solidarity When I ask her about the challenges she and her community have faced working to establish the permanent protection of their traditional homeland she provides me with a list that to many would seem insurmountable In a community dealing with poverty and substance abuse and still picking up the pieces from the effects of residential schools Sophia and her fellow community members began the journey of learning in depth what is happening to their community by researching the history policies and legislation that affect them But to do this major language barriers had to be overcome So we connected with people who have the expertise she explains Even though our community is isolated we know what s happening to indigenous people and their land all over the world We don t want the same fate Instead we will continue to teach our children to take care of the land And so they have Over the years Poplar River completed the final draft of a land management plan that includes full protection of their territorial lands from logging mining and hydroelectric developments as well protection from drilling for oil petroleum and natural gas The plan safeguards traditional uses and stipulates that resource use and access by community members will be managed according to traditional values and knowledge It s frustrating when they tell you that by stopping industrial development you re stimulating poverty in the community says Rabliauskas Because if we lose the boreal forest our traditional territory our community will not survive When I ask for more detail about what the alternatives are to industrial development Sophia explains to me that we first must recognize that things will only get worse if we take too much from the Earth From there she explains how First Nations have different ideas as to how they can create economic development Some are planning on expanding eco tourism starting small scale and then exploring further There are other communities involved in the World Heritage Site and we d like to work together looking at eco tourism to share with the world what we have Sophia is referring to the Accord signed by four First Nations in Manitoba and Ontario to have their traditional territories linked by a common designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site The Accord endeavors to create a unique cooperative relationship in the spirit of advancing their common interests regarding protected areas in

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/69/sophia-bittern-rabliauskas (2016-02-09)
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  • » John Cutfeet | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    three years The conference was entitled An Aboriginal Approach to Mining Relationships First Nation leaders mining company representatives and government officials were in attendance at the event Awhile ago six individuals from KI First Nation including the chief and four band councillors were charged with contempt of court after they refused to allow exploration activities by Platinex a junior mineral exploration company from Toronto According to one conference organizer Platinex was invited to the event but declined to be involved An Ontario judge had earlier ruled that Platinex had a right to access the land for exploration and KI could not interfere Cutfeet is currently challenging those contempt charges in Ontario To further complicate matters KI First Nation has been attempting to finalized issues related to Treaty Land Entitlement TLE surrounding their territory In dealing with Platinex Cutfeet said the community had tried to act within the lawful system established and they believe they have exhausted all of the lawful options open to them For a long period of time our people have not been heard Our voices have been silenced and we feel it is time that stopped Our people should have the same opportunities as anyone else In previous court judgments it was ruled that the Crown had to set out a consultation protocol for private companies that wanted to explore or develop on territories traditionally used by First Nations Cutfeet said that KI First Nation had been working on establishing a consultation process In particular they developed a six stage process that allowed for consultation with band leadership as well as community members and those most directly affected by the development activities Once all of that was finished a referendum would be held in the community to determine support Then an agreement would be signed once this

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/67/john-cutfeet (2016-02-09)
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  • » Wild Bill: Story of the Birch | Aboriginal Boreal Conservation Leaders
    the unblemished whiteness of the Birch and correlated this characteristic to purity and perfection The Balsam Fir excreting sap like puss from warty fissures all over its silver body couldn t behold the Birch anymore and left for a more suitable place to live Others followed Some left because their deformities were amplified by the beauty of the Birch making them more difficult to ignore The sobs of morose could be heard through the disguise of a nighttime rustling breeze Others believed that they no longer belonged to a forest of saintly purity and moved out to worship from the periphery There the Birch stood alone in its starkness and surrounded by jealous onlookers It was said that when the wind snuck into the forest and the other trees sowed and groaned in scornful resistance the Birch remained silent the wind slipping over them heedlessly All the trees wanted to be born as the elegant Birch All dreamt of being a part of the birch stand and pondered what it would be like to have others see them as they saw the Birch a regiment of petrified ghosts against a backdrop of darkness Soon a sizzling emanated from the forest It grew louder transforming the silent stand into crackling thunder as if the forest itself was on fire yet no flames were visible The Birch grew taller and taller reaching its long balmy white limbs to the sky It was not long before the Birch began to feel as if the sun shone for it alone its leaves snobbishly turned up to the sun stealing its life giving warmth Never meant to be the tallest tree in the forest the birch one day stretched higher and basked in the midday heat Soon a sizzling emanated from the forest It grew

    Original URL path: http://www.abcleaders.org/stories/64/wild-bill-story-of-the-birch (2016-02-09)
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