Indigenous Peoples & The Land
Indigenous Peoples have had a respectful and reciprocal relationship with the lands and waters of Turtle Island, known as Canada today, since time immemorial.
The Land Between, the region the Blue Lakes Program operates within, is located in Williams Treaty 20 Mississauga Anishinaabeg territory and Treaty 61 Robinson Huron territory in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg. These Nations are the inherent stewards and caretakers of this Land. The Original Treaties of Canada indicated that only the land would be shared equally between Indigenous Nations and Settlers, and only as deep as the plow. There was never any indication of sharing water. The sharing that was the basis of the Constitution also enabled a protocol of discussion and informed consent as well as a Duty to Consult with Indigenous peoples about areas that affect their rights and title.
This Duty is embedded in the Constitution and is to be honoured at all levels, including municipal and individual. Therefore, in terms of conservation and care for land and waters, Indigenous peoples have inherent rights and are our allies. Moving forward, reconciliation is about walking hand in hand and maintaining respectful understanding and relationships with Indigenous peoples and Nations, learning about and acknowledging the harm of the past, the present disparate conditions and treatment of Indigenous people with an open heart and commitment to kindness.
It is important to recognize that environmentalism and Indigenous rights go hand in hand, as Indigenous peoples hold traditional knowledge and relationships that are necessary to truly maintain thriving ecosystems. However, Indigenous peoples and their way of knowing have been repeatedly excluded from decision-making processes within and beyond the conservation space. Our goal is to seek partnership with Indigenous peoples and guidance from their invaluable skills, knowledge, and relationships with the natural world. An important action toward this end involves reconciliation or establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful framework for living together.
Do you know the history of the land your home is found on and the Indigenous territories that exist on it? There are great masses of land in Canada that were unrightfully taken from Indigenous people, which are referred to as "unceded land". Unceded land is territory that First Nations peoples never legally signed to the Crown or Canada. In fact, ninety-five percent of British Columbia is on unceded traditional First Nations territory. Even in the case of ceded land, it is widely held that a substantial portion of the land in Canada was not “taken” legally, as most treaties did not follow proper protocols to allow for prior and informed consent. The first step in reconciliation includes acknowledging that the land rightfully belongs to Indigenous peoples, the First Peoples of Turtle Island, now known as Canada, and acknowledging that we currently live and work on lands steeped in rich and dark history. This is known as a "land acknowledgement" and it is something the Blue Lakes Program highly encourages individuals and groups working together to create.
Reconciliation, more specifically, is about acknowledging the disproportionate oppression Indigenous peoples face and maintaining a genuine, mutually respectful relationship as a commitment to change future behaviours. Reconciliation means coming to a shared understanding between Indigenous peoples and Canadian settlers. The history of First Nation peoples in Canada should be acknowledged by every Canadian, and their cultures, traditions and languages should be honoured, respected and celebrated. Reconciliation is not a one-time event, but instead a journey that requires willingness, humility and action amongst individuals and governments. Reconciliation is also more than learning and sentiments; it is about walking hand in hand with Indigenous people and taking action where necessary to right the wrongs done.
Learning about and acknowledging the past is the first step in Reconciliation.
Reconciliation, Humility & Kindness & The Blue Lakes Program
One of the Performance Areas that participants can set goals and actions under within the Blue Lakes Program surrounds reconciliation with Indigenous peoples as it pertains to their work on lake health and integrity. Participants may elect to work under this Performance Area if they want to learn more about Indigenous history in Canada, are interested in marrying traditional knowledge and western science (known as a system of "Two-Eyed Seeing") on their property, or if reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is important to them. Example actions participants can take within the Reconciliation, Humility & Kindness Performance Area include:
- Learning about the colonization history of Canada
- Learning about the Treaties and Nations/Communities in your area
- Establishing a respectful relationship with an Indigenous community and community members in your area by inviting members to become part of your Blue Lakes group, to meetings, or to share stories and insights at events and occasions
The Blue Lakes Program has put together a brief guide on Indigenous history in Canada, more about land acknowledgements, as well as additional reading and resources. You can launch the guide below!