Posts Tagged ‘British Columbia’


Everything Is Connected: Tla-o-qui-aht People and Climate Change

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly 39-1 Upholding Indigenous Rights Is Good Business (March 2015)

By Gleb Raygorodetsky

Eli Enns, co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks. Photo by Gleb Raygorodestky.

Eli Enns, co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks. Photo by Gleb Raygorodestky.

When Canada created the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the 1970s, the government did not consult with the Tla-o-qui-aht people and other Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, whose traditional territories it subsumed. Among many other negative consequences for Tla-o-qui-aht, the Park’s establishment erased any future options for their community to grow. But recently a deal was brokered to support an 86 hectare (nearly 1 square km) expansion of the Esowista reservation.

Now, after a few years of construction, a new Tla-o-qui-aht community, Ty-Histanis, is springing to life. Over 170 single family houses, more than 30 duplexes, and a dozen or so elders’ units are planned, along with a school, health clinic, pharmacy, recreation center, and a bus hub. Most of it is yet to come, but the main infrastructure has been built, several houses raised, and some families have already moved in.

The second of two Tla-o-qui-aht reserves, Esowista (and now, Ty-Histanis) is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia on the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound. Ty-Histanis was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of more efficient heating, electrical, and mechanical systems. A central geothermal station makes it possible for each house to have radiant floor heating, an important feature in the region’s wet climate, especially now, when winter precipitation is expected to increase. Each household will also save money because it won’t be necessary to rely on electricity for heat. Most importantly, the expansion will allow people to relocate to safer, higher ground above the Esowista shoreline, which is increasingly being eroded by stronger and more frequent winter storms—the consequence of changing climate.

Eli Enns, the great-grandson of Nah-wah-suhm (a public speaker and historian for Wickaninnish, the Grand Chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation), is a political scientist with expertise in constitutional law and a longtime resident of Clayoquot Sound. Of the new community, he says, “As with everything the Tla-o-qui-aht people do, we have tried to apply our traditional teaching to achieve sustainable community development in Ty-Histanis, paying particular attention to climate change.” As part of a climate change adaptation design to deal with increasingly intense rains, over 40 percent of the land in and around the community has been left undisturbed. Several stormwater retention ponds have been constructed with new pavements made of porous material to allow water to seep through them, into the soil, instead of letting runoff overflow the community storm sewage system.

The Tla-o-qui-aht people and their long-term partner, Vancouver-based Ecotrust Canada, also looked for ways to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in construction and transportation of building materials. They have designed and built a model house incorporating Nuu-chah-nulth traditional long-house designs and local building materials as part of the “Standing Tree to Standing Home” program. Their hope is that this more energy-efficient traditional house model will become a preferred option for the new families moving to Ty-histanis from Esowista or Opitsaht, or even families returning to their traditional territory from other parts of British Columbia or the rest of Canada. “We have a constitutionally recognized Aboriginal right to be self-governing. And a part of our tradition of self-governance is to look after our traditional territory for the benefit of future ancestors. Now we have to find thoughtful, creative, and innovative ways of reapplying those traditional concepts and values in a modern context of natural resource management,” Enns says.

Enns was profoundly affected by regular childhood visits to his father’s homeland, Clayoquot Sound, and seeing his great-grandfather’s house gave him an overwhelming sense of belonging and connectedness to the landscape, something that has guided his life and work ever since. “Several things came out of that experience for me,” he says. “The first thing was, ‘live under the heavens and upon the earth.’ And what that meant to me was to be aware of the sun and the moon cycles that govern our lives every day and every year, and act appropriately: simple.”

With the establishment of Meares Island Tribal Park in 1984, Tla-o-qui-aht people began to manage their lands according to their traditional values. The Tla-o-qui-aht elders, however, were never satisfied focusing solely on Meares Island without bearing in mind their entire traditional territory, because of their understanding of Hishuk Ish Tsa’walk—everything is one, everything is connected. “You can’t disconnect the Island from mudflats, and inlets, and rivers, and salmon,” says Enns. “So we always knew that we would need to go back to managing our whole traditional territory. [After] Meares Island, we focused on Ha’uukmin, the Kennedy Lake watershed, which became our first attempt to figure out Tribal Parks management based on our traditional principles.”

The resulting Ha’uukmin Tribal Park management and land use plan informs proponents of development projects about what kind of activities are allowed in the Park before the developers approach Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory. Following traditional practices and laws of their people, the areas least disrupted by logging and other development activities were set aside as traditional qwa siin hap, or “leave as is,” areas, similar to what scientists would call a conservation or protected area. Other parts of the Tribal Park that had been logged or affected in some other way, like the Kennedy Flats, are called uuya thluk nish, or “we take care of.” This is where certain types of economic development and ecosystem healing take place, like salmon habitat restoration.

“Then the goldmine proposal came,” Enns recalls. “So we said, ‘No, you can’t do that’, and created the Tranquil Creek Tribal Park and the Esowista Tribal Park to protect our territory from mining. Now we have pretty much the entire traditional territory covered. But our salmon go out into the open ocean. Our responsibilities follow salmon, because what happens in international waters is going to affect what happens here. That is where we’re trying to get Indigenous voices into discussions about international waters and the management of the Pacific Ocean.”

Climate change presents a particular challenge because the environmental conditions that had enabled the temperate rainforests to mature for millennia are simply no longer there. There is also not enough salmon to bring the necessary nutrients into the system to sustain the growth of ancient trees. Moreover, the increasing air and water temperatures undermine the future of those wild salmon species, like sockeye, that depend on cold water to successfully reproduce and grow.

In partnership with groups like the Wilderness Committee, Ecotrust Canada, and Parks Canada, the Tribal Parks have chosen a path toward developing a conservation economy that is meant to support the natural and social systems making up Clayoquot Sound and serve as a foundation for ensuring the Tla-o-qui-ahts’ well-being. Though some traditional subsistence practices like whaling are no longer viable, the Tla-o-qui-aht are hoping to strengthen local traditional subsistence, trade, and exchange models with newer elements of conservation economy. “The most fundamental thing is water,” Enns says. “We need clean drinking water sources for ourselves and for the future generations, and it is one of the key resources that we have in our traditional territory in abundance. So, we intend to keep it that way. What we are doing in our climate change adaptation work now is basically preparing for the big crash. If the crash never happens, that’s fine. Because these are still things that need to be done. So we may be just creating a better way of doing things in the long run.”

This article is adapted from a six-part series, “Everything is Connected: Tla-o-qui-aht People and Climate Change.” Follow Gleb Raygorodetsky on Twitter @ArchipelagoHope and Tla-o-qui-aht Park on


The Importance of Inclusive Engagement

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A recent article published in The Guardian is accusing the Canadian government of “pushing First Nations to give up land rights for oil and gas profits.” The article cites private meetings between resource companies and the Assembly of First Nations, organized and funded by the government, that are reportedly sparking strong criticism from grassroots communities.

The style and nature of dialogue with Indigenous Peoples about resource extraction is often just as important as the dialogue itself. Private meetings with elite Indigenous leaders, without participation from grassroots communities, gives the impression that the government is trying to “buy off” chiefs, a tactic used to divide and conquer Indigenous Peoples throughout history in Canada and elsewhere. A more inclusive and transparent approach would likely yield less criticism.

A rally against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, in November, 2014. [Photograph Credit: Mark Klotz/flickr, The Guardian]

A rally against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, in November, 2014. [Photograph Credit: Mark Klotz/flickr, The Guardian]

Sources: The Guardian

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Mount Polley Tailings Spill Sparks Outrage 

In August 2014, a tailings spill at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine unleashed 2.5 billion gallons of contaminants into the Fraser River watershed in southern BC, sparking outrage from the Neskonlith Indian Band. Community members established a monitoring checkpoint and encampment at the mine’s entrance, and Chief Judy Wilson delivered an eviction notice to the company’s offices in Vancouver. The spill’s ramifications rippled to Imperial’s Red Chris mine in northern BC, where elders from the Tahltan Central Council (with whom the company previously had a positive working relationship) established a blockade to voice their concerns about the potential of a similar incident in their territories. The blockade ended when the company signed an agreement with the community “that will see the company pay for an outside engineering firm, chosen by the band, to review the Red Chris tailings facility.”

Companies should enter such agreements with communities proactively, rather than reactively, as they relate a strong commitment to collaborative monitoring of projects with communities. Imperial will probably have far greater difficulties redeeming its community relationships at Mount Polley, where disaster has already occurred.

Sources: CBC, Warrior Publications, CBC

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


What Is Important: Indigenous Youth Speak

Reposted from Cultural Survival

At this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Cultural Survival radio producers interviewed dozens of delegates about the issues pertaining to their communities and their work. The following are excerpts from three interviews with youth delegates.

wakinyan_right_is_thorne_by_tiana_lapointe(Photo by Tiana LaPointe, from Cultural Survival)

Thorne and Wakinyan LaPointe

Thorne (23) and Wakinyan LaPointe (24), Lakota brothers of Rosebud, South Dakota, are American Indian Movement (AIM) West delegates whose community development efforts aid youth “to further their goals in their communities and reflect their values as Native Peoples” by reconnecting them with the land. In their words, the brothers want to “develop and integrate relevant cultural aspects as well as build political, economic, and social bodies that will provide the influence and political power that Indigenous youth need.”

Thorne explained: “We want to remind young people that Indigenous People are strength-based. We show them the strengths that our people have had since time immemorial on these lands. We seek for our youth a transformative experience, the experience that our ancestors had before us…Too often our youth are too focused on the deficits that they say we have. They say that we’re the poorest of the poor; that’s all that our youth grow up and see. They internalize it. We want to teach them to grow our nations in a sustainable way.”

Wakinyan added, “One of our education programs with Indigenous youth in the Minnesota area is a long-term project called Mde Maka Ska; to the Dakota that translates to ‘White Earth Lake.’ It’s part of a body of water that they hold sacred. What we aim to do is simply help reconnect youth with the importance, the sacredness, of water and also the land. Often in the urban areas that these Dakota children live in, there’s a diminishment of that relationship to the land. So enhancing their experiences with the water through canoeing, through visiting with their elders near the water, or interacting with other Native youth from different tribes on land and sharing stories—learning and re-learning to visit again is the most sustainable way that we see in strengthening the values of the Dakota people.”

When youth go into nature with the LaPointe brothers, Wakinyan said, “they learn that the sort of values they picked up in an urban, artificial environment are not sustainable. They’re forced to re-evaluate what they do and who they are in relation to the natural world; what kind of choices they want to make that are sustainable to them and their families. They derive that sense of future from the interactions and relationships they’ve built with the land and its life forms.”

The brothers impart their traditional values, language, and stories as a way of strengthening the impact of this education. “We’ve found what really sticks with them is their language,” Wakinyan said. “When we take them out into a natural setting and use even just one word, you tell a story to that word, reconnecting youth with their origin. Their stories provide them with experiences to give a basis for their values as Indigenous people. We see the international human rights framework as a base to help support that continued learning for Native youth.” Thorne added, “Engaging them in the natural world and showing them how to fight politically, legally for their rights as well, that’s a very powerful thing.”


a445f666e41e36713487daf94a653225(Photo from Twitter)

Alexey Tsykarev

Alexey Tsykarev of the Russian Federation represented the Republic of Karelia. A member of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, his role is to maintain Indigenous youth voices. He also serves on the advisory body of the UN Human Rights Council and is leading studies on access to justice for the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a special focus on youth with disabilities and Indigenous women.

Tsykarev recently attended the World Conference on Youth and was impressed by the attendance: 1,500 participants representing every country in the world, including the UN President of the General Assembly; Special Envoy on Youth of the Secretary General; and the President of Sri Lanka. The main topic of the conference was the post-2015 development agenda; in Tsykarev’s words, “how youth, including Indigenous youth, can contribute to the preparation of sustainable development goals. I hope that Indigenous voices will be heard through this very important document.”

Tsykarev stressed the importance of language for youth development; he and his colleagues recently submitted a study on language and culture for the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. “For me, it’s a very important study,” he said. “Language and culture are very important for mentality, for self-identification as Indigenous persons. In my movement of Indigenous Peoples, we come to build language preservation and language development and we, as Indigenous communities, need support from the UN. In my republic, we have so few families in which parents transfer our Native language to children, from generation to generation. We have so few youth who can speak our language.”

Tsykarev said he has faced backlash for his efforts to incorporate Native language into school curriculums. “If we teach Native language to children, the government is concerned that these children cannot go to school and learn effectively because we have no education in Native language. They can learn Russian everywhere. But they should get also Native language, because this is very important for the development of a child. It’s good for their brain. In language exists a code for culture, for mentality.”

7398999006_3af404668c_z(Photo found on Flickr)

Ta’Kaiya Blaney

Ta’Kaiya Blaney (13) of the Sliammon Nation, British Columbia, traveled to the Permanent Forum with her own funds to advocate for Indigenous youth rights. There, she shared her aspiration to establish an Indigenous Children’s Fund in collaboration with the Permanent Forum.

Blaney’s passionate speech highlighted the challenges faced by Indigenous youth today: “Children under 18 account for 61 percent of the Indigenous population, the true majority and foundation of Indigenous societies. For centuries, our nations have sustained the familiar cycles of poverty and cultural extinguishment, as well as inadequate healthcare and education, infant mortality, drug abuse, language loss, distance from self-sustaining traditional practices, and suicide. Due to the continuation of historic exclusion, attacks on our cultures, and discrimination, Indigenous youth are subjected to colonization and the devastating after-effects of residential and boarding schools. Indigenous youth are a product of our communities, and so these negative factors become parts of our identity and discriminate against our human rights.”

Blaney proposes an Indigenous Children’s Fund specifically to address culture and language: “because when a language dies, the sense of community and belonging, especially in a youth perspective, dies along with it;” health: “because all Indigenous children are most likely to die under the age of five than live to be an adult in all regions of the world;” education: “in 2009, over 60 percent of Indigenous youth had not completed high school in Canada;” environment, poverty, and well-being: “isolated Indigenous Inuit youth communities alone commit the highest rates of suicide in the world;” and sport: “[this is] a fundamental human right integral to maintaining healthy human relationships [and] a way to help disputes between states.”

The children’s fund incorporates “all essential elements of a youth’s medicine wheel of healthy living: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical activities.” As Blaney explained, “Our elders are dying before they can effectively pass down the culture. [And so] we recommend the creation and establishment of the Native Children’s Survival Indigenous Children’s Fund, which includes an elders, youth, and children advisory board to exchange wisdom, tradition, and opportunity between the generations. Indigenous Peoples are in a constant hidden war with governments, and children fall victim to such hidden wars.” Blaney hopes to fill a void where existing programs have failed, as she said, “to recognize the essential importance of re-establishing culture in the lives of Indigenous children so we may become successful.”

To read more about Ta’Kaiya Blaney’s activism, visit: listen to the full radio interviews and hear programming on Indigenous rights, visit:



Tsilhqot’in Ruling a Game Changer for Canada

In June 2014, Canada’s Supreme Court awarded the Tsilhqot’in Nation title to 1,700 square kilometers of their unceded traditional lands. The case dates back to 1983, when the government issued logging licenses on lands that were outside the community’s reserve boundaries, but still used by the community for hunting and trapping. After decades of arguments in lower courts, the Supreme Court awarded the community title to those lands, and determined that the government breached its constitutional duty to consult. The court also laid out processes for other First Nations to secure title to their unceded traditional lands.

Hundreds of First Nations have never ceded their traditional lands, especially in British Columbia. This ruling establishes a precedent for those communities to secure title to those lands and determine “the uses to which the land is put.” In other words, projects on titled lands require not only consultation, but consent from communities. If consent is not obtained, the government must prove the project is “pressing and substantial” through the courts, where First Nations enjoy a clear winning streak. The ruling also notes that “it may be necessary for the government to reassess its prior conduct in light of its new obligations…if it starts a project without consent, it may be required to cancel the project.” Communities are already moving to stop unwanted projects from going forward by seeking title to their unceded traditional lands, making it more important than ever for companies to obtain consent from First Nations in Canada.

Sources: CBC, CBC, Boundary Sentinel


Lawsuit Brings Uncertainty to Jumbo Glacier Resort

The Ktunaxa Nation is taking legal action against the Jumbo Glacier Resort, a ski resort poised for development in the Purcell Mountains of southeastern British Columbia.  The resort would be constructed upon Qat’muk, which is the gathering place of Grizzly Bear Spirits and a vital component of Ktunaxa cultural heritage.  The court’s decision is not expected for another month, and construction is reportedly stalled as potential investors withhold financing due to the legal limbo.  Even if the court allows the project to move forward, the holdup will prevent construction from being completed in time for the 2014 ski season, thus hindering returns from its first year of operations.

Although tourism is often highlighted as being compatible with Indigenous Peoples, there are sometimes conflicting approaches to tourism development between communities and the industry.  In these instances, the tourism industry is just as vulnerable to the risks of community opposition as other industries, and should be held to the same standards of community engagement.

Sources: Globe and Mail


Good News: Canada – New Prosperity Mine Rejected Again


Reposted from Cultural Survival

Known by the Tsilhqot’in people of the area as Teztan Biny, Fish Lake is a small lake located on the Chilcotin plateau in the Cariboo region of British Columbia on the Fish Creek Watershed, 125 kilometers southwest of the town of Williams Lake. Fish Lake lies within the picturesque lakes and forests of the Tsilhqot’in territory and is of great significance culturally and spiritually to the Tsilhqtot’in people. Throughout the last decade this land has been the subject of battle between First Nations people and their supporters and Taseko Mines, Ltd.  The mining company has been lobbying for years to start a mining project on what is considered one of the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper deposits.

After the first proposal for an open pit mine, which would include turning Fish Lake and several other lakes in the area into tailing ponds, was rejected by Canada’s Ministry of Environment in 2010 on the grounds of adverse environmental damage, Taseko re-submitted a second environmental assessment with revisions to conserve Fish Lake. The original report stated that the direct environmental impacts of the mine would damage water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and the ability of local First Nation members to conduct traditional activities important to their cultural heritage. The federal review panel came to similar conclusions this time with the help of an independent environment assessment, finding that the resulting damage to the environment would be irreparable.

In a press release Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq relayed, “The Minister of the Environment has concluded that the New Prosperity Mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. The Governor in Council has determined that those effects are not justified in the circumstances; therefore, the project may not proceed.”

Taseko and its supporters say they haven’t given up. Throughout the lobbying Taseko and Williams Lake’s business minded, including Mayor Kerry Cook, have pushed the economic benefits. Supporters of the mine say it will be lucrative for the town and that the project needs to be approved for Williams Lake to move forward in the world of commerce. The 1.5 billion dollar mining project would create an estimated 550 direct jobs for locals and $340 million in gross domestic product annually.

Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison commented on the ruling, “We fundamentally disagree with the decision made by the Government of Canada and we would say that this is not the end. Saying no to a project of this magnitude and importance to B.C. is not an acceptable conclusion. This project is just too important.”  The mining firm is compiling statistics for a third appeal.

However Tsilhqot’in tribal Chairman Joe Alphonse and other Tsilhqot’in members see reason to celebrate. “I think if you’ve had two scathing reports like this come out, you know, I think that speaks volumes about any possibility of moving forward on this project by anyone,” he said. “So we have comfort in that.” Last month Alphonse accompanied other Indigenous leaders and their allies to Parliament Hill to warn politicians that approving the mine would harm the relationship between Ottawa and Indigenous communities in Canada. The resulting mine rejection has made Alphonse optimistic about the future. “This gives hope to all First Nations that there are… people in this country that will listen to us.”


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In Our Modern World, Traditional Indigenous Knowledge is More Important Than Ever


By Britnae Purdy

Clearly the way we’re running things on earth is not headed in a good direction – the climate is changing, we’re nearing a drinking water crisis, and our food system is not sustainable. Juxtaposed with extreme poverty in much of the world, we see that the world’s three richest men have more wealth than the world’s 47 poorest countries combined.

But we haven’t given up hope yet. There’s a solution to many of our biggest problems. It may require a new way of thinking for most of us, but really, it’s a system of knowledge that is thousands of years old. We believe that traditional Indigenous knowledge has a lot to teach us, that an economy of ENOUGHNESS is not a relic, but is the best way to preserve the world for future generations. Does that sound a little too abstract for you? Allow us to provide some specific examples of how traditional Indigenous knowledge is being applied in very modern ways.

Health – Despite often being mischaracterized as “witchcraft” or “sorcery” and even banned from official practice in some countries, traditional medicine has survived for thousands of years. Traditional medicine is more than just a medical system – it is a holistic doctrine that places physical illness in a larger network of mental and emotional wellbeing and community health.  Today, many doctors realize that even the symbolic aspects of certain healing ceremonies and practices can have an important psychological impact on patients that contributes to healing. In Peru, one in three people still use traditional medicine, and in Africa, 7% of the average household budget goes towards traditional medicine. Today, traditional medicine is becoming more popular for a very practical reason – it is infinitely less expensive than the Western medicine system. According to the World Health Organization, 30% of the world’s population does not have regular access to basic medicines, and in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia this number is often greater than 50%. In Ghana and Zambia, there is one Western-trained doctor for every 20,000 people, whereas there is one traditional healer for every 200 people.

Many common cures and medicines that we use today were initially discovered by Indigenous peoples long ago. Examples include:

– The cinconcha tree produces quinine, which was used by the Quecha of Peru and Bolivia to treat fevers and muscle spasms. Quinine was one of the first known antidotes to malaria, and was widely used in treating malaria from the 1600s until the 1940s. Quinine is also used to treat arthritis and lupus.

– Long before it became a trendy weight loss pill, the San of southern Africa used the hoodia cactus to stave off hunger in times of low food

– Tumeric, whose active ingredient curcumin is used to treat a variety of chronic illness including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and arthritics, has been used for healing wounds in India as part of the Ayurvedic traditional health system, dating back thousands of years.

– Argoyapacha, which can be used to increase energy, has been used by the Kaani people of southern India for centuries to suppress fatigue and stress. It is also an Ayurvedic treatment for snake bites.

– The Uyghur people of Western China effectively treat kidney stones with fennel seed, watermelon seeds, maize style, and chicory seeds.


Agriculture – Indigenous practices of agriculture focus on growing necessary crops in a holistic and sustainable manner – far different from the capitalist system that emphasizes profit above health and sustainability. Many such systems focus on agricultural diversity – planting more than one variety of crop on the same land – which reduces risks associated with natural variability and weather, unlike monoculture farming. According to the UN Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Some examples of successful traditional agricultural practices that continue today include:

– Rice-fish co-culturing has been used in south China for over 1,200 years. Recently designated a “globally-important agricultural heritage system’ by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, this practice comingles fish with rice paddies. While the fish eat and remove harmful rice pests, the rice helps to regulate the fish’s environment. This results in both healthier rice and fish populations, and has been shown to reduce the need for pesticides by 68% and chemical fertilizer by 24%.

– Traditional farmers in Tanzania plant their maize, beans, and wheat around pits surrounded by ridges. During the rainy season, these pits act as reservoirs to prevent surface runoff, thus protecting the crops and also preserving the quality of the soil for future planting.

– Farmers in Northern Thailand employ a complex system of landscaping that includes home gardens, grazing land for cattle, sacred areas, rice paddies, and a tree line that serves as a forest break and wildlife path. In this way, communities are able to provide for all of their needs without destructing the land or disturbing local wildlife.

– Rainwater harvesting, a traditional practice which is thought to be at least 6,500 years old, was revived in the Rajasthan state of India in 1970 as a response to severe drought and depletion of drinking water, and has been improving agriculture ever since.


Conservation – Indigenous peoples have an invested interest in protecting wildlife populations. Modern conservation methods often call for removing Indigenous peoples from their lands to create spaces free of human occupation to protect the wildlife population – resulting in over 20 million people being displayed in the name of conservation! However, Indigenous peoples have been living in harmony with their animal neighbors since time immemorial, and studies have shown that areas under traditional Indigenous stewardship have healthier wildlife populations than those under modern conservation. As the world’s ecosystems are facing the harms of climate change, paying attention to these time-proven methods is more important than ever. Some examples of how Indigenous practices can improve wildlife conservation include:

– Traditional fire management has been practice by Indigenous peoples cross Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, and Mexico. This practice involves periodically sparking controlled burns to create a patchwork of burnt sections across a forest or plains. This prevents the massive, rolling wildfires that we now often hear about in the news, and also promotes new forest growth and soil improvement, as ash from the controlled burns enhances soil quality and facilitates regeneration. Now, in Australia, Aboriginals can even use controlled burning to earn carbon credits, both enhancing the ecosystem and providing new employment opportunities

– Locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs) have proven to be one of the most effective ways of combat ecosystem destruction in the Pacific islands. In an LMMA, coastal communities are able to enact policies and guideline to protect marine animals and reefs. Because the Indigenous communities are the ones who interact with the seas on a daily basis and have a shared history of the area, they are able to decide on the most effective protective measures. These measures often include species-specific prohibitions on hunting, seasonal and area closures to create networks of wildlife refuges, gear restrictions, and behavioral prohibitions. These are often complemented by a community’s own totemic food restrictions and also allows the community to maintain sacred sites and tabu areas.

– An amazing example of the possible cooperation between modern technology and traditional knowledge is the use of animal herd management currently underway in the Arctic. While scientists are using remote satellite sensing, and modeling to track the patterns and movements of herd animals, they are also consulting with Sami and Nenet reindeer herders, who are more observant on complex changes in the environment and within herds.

Cultural and LinguisticThis one is a little less quantitative, but just as important. Indigenous peoples have rich, deep cultures and traditions, and allowing these to degenerate is doing a great disservice to our collective humanity. As Gaston Donnat Bappa, a chief from the Bambini region of Cameroon, explains, the world is “enriched by its Indigenous peoples, its oral culture perpetuated by the storytellers, its proverbs, myths and legends, its totems, sorcerers and patriarchs, and by its connections with the dead through funerary ceremonies and funerals. It is enriched by its animism at the source of its specific spirituality…by its unalterable, inexhaustible arts and crafts, its folklore, songs, dances, its communitarianism, and by the communicative ‘joie de vivre’ which characterises its people.” Indigenous languages play an integral part in facilitating all of the above-mentioned issues, and Indigenous languages are often able to convey subtleties and nuances about nature, the weather, healing properties of plants, and human behavior that dominant languages do not. Still looking for some hard facts? How about this – a 2007 study showed that among Indigenous communities in British Columbia, communities where a majority of members had conversational knowledge of the Indigenous language had low youth suicide rates, whereas communities where less than half of the members spoke the native language had youth suicide rates up to six times higher.

Convinced yet? Join us in our ENOUGHNESS campaign. First Peoples works directly with Indigenous communities around the world. Your donation will provide grants to support sustainable development projects that can make the world a better place for us all.

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Young Singer/Songwriter Uses Incredible Talent to Protect the Environment

Reposted from Cultural Survival 


Ta’Kaiya Blaney, age 12, from Sliammon First Nation, British Columbia, Canada, has been an environmental activist since she was 8 years old. Her singing, songwriting, and acting reflect her concern for the future of the planet, especially the preservation of marine and coastal wildlife. In addition to her environmental activism, she advocates for Indigenous Peoples’ rights internationally. Her song “Shallow Waters” was a semifinalist in the 2010 David Suzuki Songwriting Contest. Kaimana Barcarse (Native Hawaiian), Free, Prior and Informed Consent Initiative Radio Series Producer, spoke with Blaney at this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Listen to Ta’Kaiya’s amazing song here, and read what she has to say below.  

When I was eight years old I saw an article in the newspaper about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which is a pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. It crosses over 45 different First Nations territories, putting at risk 45 different cultures, 45 different languages. Yes, 45 different languages and these diverse cultures are being put at risk because of money, because of greed. But even before that I was very involved in the environment—not in activism, but in taking walks and listening to the birds and sitting down and just absorbing the beauty of life and nature.

Sliammon was very lush and very beautiful in the parts where it wasn’t destroyed, but at the same time I was noticing the parts that were destroyed. Our old village was called Tishosum, meaning Place of the Spawning Herring. We were forced out of our own territory and there are no more herring there anymore; I was aware of that even at a very young age. That doubt and that worry—could this be the future of Sliammon? All of it just came flooding back when I saw that article, and from there I just decided to write a song.

I’m a singer/songwriter and I decided to write a song about a future where this oil spill from the Northern Gateway Pipeline and from the supertankers…reminding people that this oil spill is very possible. A lot of people in British Columbia can’t imagine BC without that beautiful, lush quality because it’s so in front of you, it’s so real; it’s such a big part of our lives. But you know it is a possibility if this does happen. So from the age of eight I’ve been involved in opposing this project. I wrote a song called “Shallow Waters,” and from there I came here.

Sliammon Nation, a Nationless People
In Canada we have a proclamation called the World Proclamation of 1763. It states that we are entitled to jurisdiction over our land and over any corporation that wants to be doing anything that would possibly pollute our land. We have that right unless a treaty has been signed. That is why most of BC is unseated UNCDB territory, meaning that there have been no treaties signed over that land. But my nation, the Sliammon Nation, has recently been going through the treaty process of selling our land to the government. We’re not only signing our lands, we’re signing away our Indigenous rights. There has already been a provincial signing, and the federal signing is coming up. With the provincial signing, we are a nationless people. The Sliammon Nation is not a nation anymore. All of this really concerns me. It makes me think, what will be given to my generation by the time that the children who are not born yet are my age? What will be left for them? What will be given back instead of taken from Mother Earth? That’s the question for the Sliammon Nation.

My ultimate goal is stopping the Sliammon Treaty, and the first step that I’m making is bringing awareness—because there is no knowledge about the corruption and the fraud that has been happening in our community outside of the borders of our territory. I’m very involved in the opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and there is quite a lot of media covering this—but there is not a lot of media covering the injustices happening within Sliammon. I really want to bring a spotlight to the corruption and to the Sliammon Nation.

Youth Taking the Reins
It’s so important for youth to be involved in this movement because it’s our own future that corporations, that the government, are putting at risk. They’re putting at risk our water, the land, and the future of Indigenous people. I went to Tunza, a UN youth conference on the environment, and it was there that I saw so many children from all over the world that were involved in social justice issues and environmental issues. To see hundreds of kids there, it was amazing. Someone came up to me and said, “Oh, kids, they’re not going to do anything,” and I said, “Hey, I’m a kid, and you’re wrong!” We really are doing something. We’re finding our voice, now more than ever.

I’m working to change my community, to create a sustainable future. I always had that dream, but it was along the lines of “when I grow up…” like it was a very distant thing. But when I saw that article in the newspaper about the pipeline, I just realized, age doesn’t matter. It’s one heart, it’s one dream, it’s the one future that we’re all living towards. You know, you have adults, you have elders, and you have chiefs, and very inspiring people who are leading this movement, but they get tired speaking everywhere. If you incorporate youth and children in spreading the message, it’s more than chasing the dream of a sustainable future that coexists in harmony with Indigenous people and their culture and Mother Earth.

On Starting a Revolution
When they say it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes an environment to raise a child. A majority of today’s youth are not being exposed to the environment, so basically there is a generation that’s being raised that’s disconnected from the environment. Once you’re disconnected, you lose a sense of caring. How are you supposed to care for something that is so alien, that you do not know? I’m starting an organization called Earth Revolution, which is a youth movement named after my song. It’s focused on empowering and inspiring youth and supporting them in their chase for their future. The chorus of the song goes, “We’re Generation Now, Children of the future, Earth’s Revolution / Creation’s crying out, I feel her pain, I can’t walk away / I’ll do my part to fix what’s broken, and give back what we’ve taken, to hope for the dawn of a new day / I’m calling each and every person, join me in Earth Revolution.” So the movement is really about my generation, this generation, and empowering and inspiring and supporting youth.

The creator gave human beings a voice; there’s a reason that we have the power to communicate. It’s because we’re supposed to speak out for those who have no voice. To speak out for those voices who go unheard. So use that voice—as long as you have that voice, you have to use it. Everyone has been given a gift. Share it. That’s what I tell people, and it is what people need to do.



Indigenous Peoples Pledge to Honor, Protect, and Defend The Salmon at Pel’son mehl Ney-Puy

cutting salmon

by Britnae Purdy

For three days, over 100 participants from more than 10 tribal communities gathered at the Hehl-keek ‘We-Roy (Klamath) River in the Yurok Nation Territory of Northern California for Pel’son mehl Ney-Puy (Big Doings With the Salmon).

The conference, subtitled “An Indigenous Peoples’ International Gathering to Honor, Protect, and Defend the Salmon,” was held June 21-23 and hosted by the Indigenous Youth Foundation along with the International Indian Treaty Council and the Yurok Tribe Wellness Court. Participants came from the communities of Karuk, Hupa, Tolowa, Wintu, Northwest Indian Fisheries Tribes, Chickaloon Alaska, Pit River, Warm Springs, Pomo, and British Columbia coastal tribes. The conference featured workshops on protecting salmon, Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), climate change, leadership, and more, as well as speakers and traditional meals and performances.

The conference, which was funded by a grant from First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund, was organized to deal with the effects that climate change and environmental toxins have had on the salmon population, which coastal tribes depend on for food. The Yurok say that decreased water levels, temperature changes, snow melts, dam construction, gold mining, and fossil fuel extraction are threatening the health of the fish population and destroying fish habitats and spawning areas. As conference leaders stated, “The cycles of our lives and the countless generations of our Peoples are merged with the life cycles of the Salmon. Salmon is our traditional food but also defines who we are. Our spiritual and cultural existence and the survival of our future generations are based on the survival of the Salmon and the exercise of our sacred responsibilities to protect the rivers, oceans, watersheds, and eco-systems where they live. The health of the Salmon is one with the spiritual, cultural, and physical health of our Peoples.”

At the end of the conference, participants affirmed their commitment to passing traditional knowledge on to youth, healing intergenerational and intertribal wounds and traumas resulting from a history of repression and colonization, and to continue to assert their rights to safe, healthy salmon populations. The full declaration can be read below.


Pel’ son’ mehl Ney-puy 

(“Big Doings with the Salmon”)

Indigenous Peoples’ International Gathering to Honor, Protect and Defend the Salmon,  

June 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 2013

Hehl-keek ‘We-Roy (Klamath River), Yurok Nation Territory, Northern California

We are Salmon Peoples.  Our traditional homelands and waterways, where we have lived and fished since time immemorial, are in what is now known as Northern California and the Pacific Northwest (US),  British Columbia (Canada), Alaska and the Islands of the Pacific.

The cycles of our lives and the countless generations of our Peoples are merged with the life cycles of the Salmon.  Salmon is our traditional food but also defines who we are.  Our spiritual and cultural existence and the survival of our future generations are based on the survival of the salmon and the exercise of our sacred responsibilities to protect the rivers, oceans, watersheds and eco-systems where they live.   The health of the Salmon is one with the spiritual, cultural, and physical health of our Peoples.

We declare that birthing places of all life are sacred places, including the rivers and streams where the Salmon spawn and the oceans where they live.   We recognize and honor the leadership and vision of those in the distant and recent past that stood up, faced violence and prison, and risked their lives in historic struggles to protect the Salmon and assert our rights and sacred responsibilities in this regard.  These brave warriors achieved historic gains in the recognition of our inherent and Treaty rights to use and protect the Salmon.   We also recognize that in many places, such struggles are still underway or are in need of revitalization.

We assert our Human Right to Food and Food Sovereignty that encompasses our cultural, spiritual, economic, environmental and political well- being.  We recognize that the rights which support and ensure our Food Sovereignty are inherent and affirmed in Treaties and international standards including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.   We affirm that “the denial of the Right to Food is a denial of our collective indigenous existence”.

We recognize the need for the healing of the inter-generational wounds and trauma that still exist in our communities as a result of the repression we have suffered defending our rights, as well as the impacts of colonization which also undermined our Food Sovereignty and divided our Peoples.  We are committed to the restoration of our families, communities, Nations, ecosystems, cultures and food systems which are inter-related and interdependent.

In sharing our experiences at this gathering, we have identified a number of threats to the survival of the Salmon as well as to the lifeways of our Peoples.    These include: damming of rivers and streams, diversion and depletion of waterways, discriminatory laws and policies, Treaty violations, environmental contaminates like mercury and pesticides, extractive industry developments including coal and gold mining, “fracking”, logging and deforestation, industrial fish farming and large-scale commercial harvesting of salmon, expansion of industrial agricultural and urban sprawl, sewage and waste dumping, nuclear and radioactive contamination of air, land and water,  genetic modification and the devastating impacts of climate change.   We also have identified the urgent need to continue transmitting the traditional knowledge passed down to us by our ancestors related to Salmon fishing and preparation, including canoe and basket making and other essential skills, to our youth and new generations.

We recognize the essential importance of continuing to come together to share our struggles as well as our ideas and solutions with other Indigenous Salmon Peoples.  We recognize and commit to support each other’s work to protect and restore the Salmon and the waterways where they live.  These include:

  • Salmon Stream/River restoration including removal of existing dams and halting new dam construction;
  • Assertion of Tribal Nation Rights and Treaty Rights and Responsibilities to manage, control, defend and protect the Salmon runs;
  • Cleanup of current contamination including mercury from past gold mining, and current mining;
  • Halting extractive industries, especially fossil fuel extraction and production (coal, tar sands, oil etc.) that causes and contributes to climate change and habitat contamination;
  • Continue to impose large scale commercial fish farming and all genetic modification of Salmon and other Indigenous traditional food sources;
  • Halting and preventing river and watershed contamination, depletion, diversion and all non-sustainable water use that impacts Salmon;
  • Sharing information and providing education about the importance of Salmon to the survival of our Peoples with other Indigenous Peoples and the outside world;
  • Teaching our children and future generations their origin stories and traditional relationships, building their respect and passion to protect all that makes us who we are;
  • Continuing to organize and provide educational and information-sharing opportunities through workshops, trainings, networking and alliance-building among Indigenous Salmon Peoples and Nations;
  • Practicing and passing on our languages, songs, stories, clan relationships, ceremonies and food related knowledge and practices to our children, youth and future generations;
  • Ensuring that decisions affecting our traditional fish and fisheries are made with the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, respecting and upholding our right to Free Prior and Informed Consent;
  • Asserting our inherent rights, including cultural rights to protect and defend Salmon and other traditionally used food and medical plants and animals for future generations and ensuring that these rights are fully recognized, upheld and implemented at the local, state/provincial, national and international levels.

We give our heartfelt Wok-hlew’ (thank you), to the Yurok Indian Nation for allowing us to meet on their homelands on the shores of the beautiful Hehl-keek ‘We-Roy (Klamath River) and Tewolew (Pacific Ocean).   We express appreciation to the International Indian Treaty Council, Indigenous Youth Foundation, Yurok Wellness Court, Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites and the Pit River Tribe for sponsoring this important gathering.  We also thank the Christensen Foundation, First Peoples Worldwide Keepers of the Earth, Yurok Language Department, Yurok Tribe, Northern California Indian Development Center,traditional Yurok Nation fishers and the many individuals whose contributions and work made this gathering possible.

We will continue to keep our hearts, minds and commitments strong.  We have shared the threats, but also the spiritual connections and some of the solutions and ideas for future work to ensure our collective survival.   The changes that are needed to protect the Salmon and our Indigenous ways of life begin with us.    

Adopted by Consensus, June 23rd 2013, Yurok Nation Traditional Territory,

Northern California

(Photo from Conference)