Indigenous government secures $2M to conserve traditional lands in northwestern Canada

The Government of Canada announced Friday it will inject $2 million into the Canada Nature Fund to help conserve Indigenous land in the Northwest Territories. It’s hoped it will help protect biodiversity in the conservation areas. (CBC)
The government of Canada announced Friday it will inject $2 million into the Canada Nature Fund to help conserve Indigenous land in the Northwest Territories.

The deal was recently signed between the federal and the Tłı̨chǫ governments. The nature fund was given $1.3 billion in the 2018 federal budget.

The lands to be conserved include more than 22,000 square kilometres between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, according to a news release.

Once complete, the protected spaces — Gowhadõ Yek’e t’ii k’e (Traditional Use Zone) and Tłı̨chǫ Nawoo Ké Dét’ahot’ìı (Cultural Heritage Zone) — will be about double the size of Cape Breton.

The protected lands are part of the Tłı̨chǫ Wenek’e or Land Use Plan, which was developed and ratified in 2013 and recommends that a plan review and update be completed every five years. The plan supports the management of approximately 39,000 square kilometres of Tłı̨chǫ lands, according to a statement from the Tłı̨chǫ Government.

Developed through ‘eyes of our elders’

The funds are also meant to protect the land for “its inherent worth and ecological integrity,” which is hoped will help preserve Tłı̨chǫ “history, stories, legends and their relationship with the land.”

“Our land, our culture and our way of life are what our people have always relied on and will continue to do so,” reads a statement from Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie.

“The Tłı̨chǫ Wenek’e was developed through the eyes of our elders to protect and promote our way life and the transfer of knowledge to future generations. These types of partnerships will only continue to strengthen our relationship and build on reconciliation.”

A map of the new Tłı̨chǫ protected areas. The Tłı̨chǫ Nawoo Ké Dét’ahot’ìı includes corridors between Wekweètì, Whatì, and Behchokǫ̀, while the Gowhadõ Yek’e t’ii k’e includes lands north and south of Gamètì. (Government of Canada)

The protected lands include the Įdaà Trail, an ancestral trail which follows waterways and watershed areas.

The trail is a top site for traditional hunting, trapping, fishing, and collecting plants used for medicine. It also holds a central place in Tłı̨chǫ history and culture.

“The community is setting out to protect a substantial area of land with deep cultural ties,” reads a statement from Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson.

Helping conserve biodiversity

Part of the funds will also help the Tłı̨chǫ Government contribute “significantly” to the federal biodiversity conservation targets through Indigenous-led conservation efforts, and support research into climate change.

It’s also expected to help the establishment of a proposed territorial protected area, Dınàgà Wek’èhodì, according to the Tłı̨chǫ Government.

The release said the investment will help protect habitat for wildlife, including 16 species at risk like the boreal caribou, and preserve known migration corridors for barren-ground caribou.

The federal government said its working with partners to double the amount of protected nature in Canada’s lands and oceans by the end of 2020, and that it wants to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s lands and 25 per cent of its oceans by 2025.

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod said the new funding for lands in the territory “represents reconciliation in action.”

“The $2 million investment will help to protect the culture and traditional identity of the Tłı̨chǫ communities and will play a big role in helping to reach Canada’s nature protection goals,” he said in a release.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Indigenous leaders stress need for less “colonial” approach to caribou conservation in North, CBC News

Finland: Arctic railway dream fades away as Sami herders signal ‘veto’, Eye on the Arctic special report

Russia:Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sami indigenous village wins historic land use case over Swedish state, Radio Sweden

United States: US Senate passes bill with funds for missing and murdered Indigenous women, CBC News

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