Six First Nation communities in Northern Ontario have collaborated to create a 3.6 million-acre nature reserve in the largest intact forest in the world, the boreal forest. The Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area is named Nibiishnaagdowen Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Nagamoowin, meaning “the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ continued and ongoing relationships and responsibility to care for lands and waters.” This Indigenous-led initiative marks a shift in Canadian conservation strategy towards greater Indigenous stewardship and knowledge, and provides a platform for the restoration of Indigenous-led stewardship, sovereignty, and cultural continuity.
First Nation Communities Collaborate to Establish New Nature Reserve in Ontario
In the midst of environmental crisis and ecological degradation, the establishment of new nature reserves has become increasingly significant. Nature reserves are not only means to preserve natural habitats, but they also safeguard the earth’s biodiversity, and provide a peaceful place for people to contemplate wildlife and nature.
Recently, six First Nation communities in Northern Ontario, joined forces to establish the Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area, named the Nibiishnaagdowen Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Nagamoowin, which means “the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ continued and ongoing relationships and responsibility to care for lands and waters.”
The nature reserve extends over 3.6 million acres and is located in the boreal forest, the largest intact forest in the world. The boreal forest harbor’s remarkable biodiversity, encompassing a variety of animal species, including moose, caribou, lynx, and wolves. Furthermore, the forest hosts more than 10,000 freshwater lakes and rivers, providing freshwater for wildlife and people.
The creation of the nature reserve marks a new era of the Indigenous-led conservation movement in Canada. Native communities play a pivotal role in protecting the land since they possess an intrinsic spiritual and cultural connection with it. Sheila McMahon, chief of Gull Bay First Nation, stated, “I see this as gaining our control back and making decisions based on our Indigenous values that put the protection of our lands and waters first.”
Indigenous-led conservation initiatives have provided successful outcomes in the past. For example, the Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories established the Edéhzhíe protected area, which not only serves as a wildlife habitat but as a driven force to empower Indigenous communities economically.
The Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area marks a significant shift in the Canadian conservation strategy, which has traditionally excluded Indigenous stewardship. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate, Jonathan Wilkinson, stated, “The conservation of natural areas is essential, and when it is led by Indigenous communities, it is even stronger than ever.”
The creation of the nature reserve has concrete implications for Indigenous communities. It provides a platform for the restoration of Indigenous-led stewardship, sovereignty, and cultural continuity. In a news release, the six First Nation communities stated, “This Indigenous-led initiative encompasses our inherent right to self-determination, our ceremonies, our languages, our knowledge and our long-term relationship with the lands and waters of our territories. Our communities, governance structures, and way of life will be integral to the management and decision-making of this protected area.”
The establishment of new nature reserves is critical, given the current trajectory of global ecological degradation. The Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area marks a pivotal point in the Canadian conservation movement, representing the active inclusion of Indigenous stewardship, knowledge, and values in safeguarding the earth for future generations.
1. What is a nature reserve?
A nature reserve is a protected area designed to preserve natural habitats and safeguard biodiversity.
2. What is the boreal forest?
The boreal forest is the largest intact forest in the world, located in the northern hemisphere, covering vast areas of Siberia, Scandinavia, Canada, and Alaska.
3. What is Indigenous-led conservation?
Indigenous-led conservation is the practice of Indigenous communities managing lands that have a spiritual and cultural connection with them.
4. How many First Nation communities created the Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area?
Six First Nation communities in Northern Ontario collaborated to establish the Lands and Waters Indigenous-led protected area.
5. What implications does the establishment of the nature reserve have for Indigenous communities?
The establishment of the nature reserve provides a platform for the restoration of Indigenous-led stewardship, sovereignty, and cultural continuity.