Muddy Boots is our internal blog where our staff members share experiences getting their boots muddy with on-the-ground conservation research! You can find our contributions to external blogs and Op Eds here.
by Cheyenne MacDonald, BSc, L'nua'tikete'w/Indigenous Relations Associate, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
Smiling Faces of WCS Staff Cheyenne Macdonald and Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle at the CMN Knowledge Sharing Summit.
Reflecting on September’s Canadian Mountain Network’s (3rd annual) Braiding Knowledge Sharing Summit in Parksville, BC, I was in awe of the inspiring leadership and conservation initiatives which I was able to learn about while listening to others from across the country. Out of the conservation leaders in which I had seen and met, some were familiar faces, but a lot were new ones.
One familiar face, Mathieya Alatini (from Kluane First Nation and served as Chief), presented on Bringing Research Home: Reclaiming Research to Tell the Story of Climate Change in the Kluane First Nation Traditional Territory. Mathieya started her presentation with an opening statement that “Reconciliation = Equality and Equality = Money”. I found this opening statement showcased the importance of Indigenous people’s inherent right to self-governance as well as ownership of funding for indigenous-led projects. During Mathieya’s presentation, Mathieya had mentioned in the Yukon Territory the word “bands” is not used as 11 of the 14 First Nations are self-governing. The term “bands” may not be appropriate when self-government agreements are in place. Although I still hear this term being used on the east coast, as the term bands are used to describe an elected council operating under the Indian Act (“Indian Act and Elected Chief and Band Council System,” 2015). This is a testimony to the uniqueness of Indigenous peoples, their landscapes, and agreements across the Country in which we work with and the need to be aware of these unique agreements.
New faces for myself included CMN's Co-Research Directors, which are Dr. Murray Humphries (Professor, and Director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment at McGill University) & Dr. Paulina Johnson (Sîpihkokîsikowiskwew (Blue Sky Woman) Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta). A quote from Dr. Humphries (who also sits on our WCS Canada, Board of Directors) which has stuck with me was “If in our roles as scientists or Academics, all we do is support (Indigenous conservation and peoples), we’ve done our jobs”. I believe this speaks to the perspective on which to take when there is Indigenous-led and co-led conservation, as well as considering values of the 10 Calls to Action to Natural Scientists Working in Canada. Murray had also talked about the usage of the term "geobiocultural", which signifies biocultural but via acknowledging the land which is something I also believe will stick with me as acknowledging the biocultural aspects without acknowledging the land seems incomplete.
Dr. Johnson had stated that all our work is rooted in ceremony, and we weren't just there for the conference but also there in ceremony together. I found this to be a good reminder of the sacredness in the work in which we conduct, and the importance it has on the people, the animals, the beings of the land and the land itself. As she had quoted “Shawn Wilson is Opaskwayak Cree from Northern Manitoba and in his book Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, forwards that the Indigenous journey into research and academia is intrinsically tied to kihci-isîhcikêwin, ceremony, as we are forwarding knowledge obtained in ahyaminawin, prayer, and nacinekewin, protocol” (Johnson, 2017).
She also spoke that with the work we do, we need to “be okay with getting it wrong, as this is a process of learning”, and expressed that as people are supposed to constantly grow, and without growth there is no learning. She too expressed uncomfortableness is showing growth. This made me think of WCS Canada’s core values of transparency and acknowledging when we have made a mistake or could have done something better or in a different way so we can learn from those mistakes.
Paulina, just as Mathieya had discussed how important protocol is to communities and how they are different in each, indicating the importance of learning and listening from others when working together to build relationships and work towards a brighter future for us all. She reminded the crowd that as Indigenous peoples "We are not just the pain and trauma, we are the resilience, the resurgence."
I'd like to conclude with a quote from Dr. Johnson in which I believe will speak to all of us here at WCS Canada, as this is relative to the work that we are so passionate to be doing:"How do we heal a living being if the western world does not see it as alive? We protect it. We be accountable, its not just us at stake, it’s the interconnectedness, its those relationships that are vital."
I would like to thank Mathieya Alatini, Dr. Paulina Johnson and Dr. Murray Humphries for their review and permission to use their quotes for my own personal reflection of the CMN gathering. I would also like to thank Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle from WCS Canada and Sue Novotny who reviewed earlier drafts and provided generous feedback.
Indian Act and Elected Chief and Band Council System. (2015, June 25). Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. Retrieved October 20, 2023, from https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indian-act-and-elected-chief-and-band-council-system
Johnson, Paulina R., "E-kawôtiniket 1876: Reclaiming Nêhiyaw Governance in the Territory of Maskwacîs through Wâhkôtowin (Kinship)" (2017). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 4492. https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/4492
Photo credits: Banner | Lila Tauzer © WCS Canada