Indigenous Guardianship was the first major topic covered during day two of the Pan- Territorial On the Land Summit.
Former Tłįchǫ Land claims negotiator John B. Zoe started off the discussion with a presentation on the Trails of our Ancestors annual canoe trip. A journey where, he says, the land still speaks to the paddlers.
“People that participate in trails of our ancestors naturally pick up place names, and collectively they can remember a lot. So that’s why it’s important to always have more than enough people to go together, so that information isn’t solely based on one person, but more of a collective knowledge,” explained Zoe.
Zoe discussed the challenges of using traditional knowledge in today’s society with summit participants in Tuesday’s sharing circles.
“We want to use the traditional knowledge base to move forward. But the challenge is the colonized mentality that seems to be barriers that we need to overcome by saying ‘well it’s an experience but it’s not the sole purpose of moving forward,’ we can use a blend of it, one’s that work for us, and if something doesn’t work for us we can put it aside, but it takes discussions to get there,” said Zoe.
Gwich’in language teacher Anna Lee McLeod participated in Tuesday’s sharing circles with Innu Forrester Valerie Courtois, and Zoe. McLeod says she’s excited to bring this information back to Aklavik.
“For me it’s very powerful, you look around this room and there’s so many Aboriginals with so much information, so much knowledge and they’re just willing to share. That’s the whole thing about our cultures, is that we share,” said McLeod.
Another example of Indigenous Guardianship that was raised by Courtois, is Deline’s Caribou Conservation plan which was just recognized by the Territorial government last month. Walter Beyha, holds this file for the Deline Gotine Government.
“Sometimes people don’t realize how important that little step, and to make one more step further and say ‘you people who live in the Sahtu you decide how you do your harvesting’. We’ve always decided and if it works then great, but we have that also, it says these are the conditions that we approve it. It’s a great step for Aboriginal people because here’s a government saying ‘yes we’ll do it your way and see what happens,” explained Beyha.
Beyha says Deline and neighbouring communities through the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board really fought to stay away from accepting a tag system for conservation.
“It is horrible, it’s just as bad as the residential school when you tell people, ok these are the tags we think you should only harvest so much. These kind of systems encroach on Aboriginal ways of doing things so much, the two systems are so different,” said Bayha comparing the tag system to their current community based plan.
Beyha says consultation with elders was a huge part in guiding this document, and considering their grandparents approach to conservation such as basic respect for the animals.
Today the summit wraps up, switching focus to ‘Honouring strengths and relying on Indigenous culture to promote wellness.’ Carol Hopkins from the Thunderbird partnership foundation will start the day off as the Keynote speaker.