Feds invests $3.2 million in Indigenous-managed watershed program in northern Canada

Five Indigenous communities in the region are working together on protecting the Seal River Watershed (pictured) as an Indigenous Protected Area. (Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area Initiative)
The Canadian government will invest $3.2 million in the Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area in the Canadian province of Manitoba near the Nunavut border.

The watershed covers 50,000 km2 in northern Manitoba, a region that includes species at risk such as the polar bear, short-eared owl, olive-sided flycatcher and barren ground caribou. 

“We appreciate the Government of Canada’s investment in Indigenous conservation,” said Ernie Bussidor, the executive director or the Seal River Watershed Alliance and aformer chief of Sayisi Dene First Nation, in a news release on Wednesday. “The Dene, Cree and Inuit peoples have cared for these lands, waters and animals since time immemorial.

“Every aspect of our cultures, spirituality and identities are rooted in our relationship to the caribou and to the lands which sustain us. We envision a pristine watershed where people, animals and fish are healthy, our unique languages and cultures are thriving, and there is hope and abundance for all future generations.”

Habour seal in the waters of Howe Sound in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The Manitoba watershed gets its name from the Seal River that flows into the Hudson Bay. Seals are found up to 200km inland on the waterway. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Five Indigenous group cooperating on project

The Sayisi Dene First Nation, with the support of the neighbouring Cree, Dene and Inuit, created the not-for-profit Seal River Watershed Alliance.

The Sayisi Dene First Nation, the Northlands Denesuline First Nation, the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, the Barren Lands First Nation in Manitoba, and the Inuit in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory Nunavut are all involved in the project.

The goal of the program is to protect the area from future industrial development.

The watershed gets its name from the Seal River that flows into the Hudson Bay. Seals are found up to 200km inland on the waterway.

A map of the Seal River Watershed and registered traplines. (Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area Initiative)

” Indigenous-led conservation initiatives like the Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area are proven to be good for the land and good for people,” said Valerie Courtois, the director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, a group founded in 2013 to foster Indigenous-led conservation efforts.

“They protect large landscapes, create economic opportunities, and strengthen communities and Nations. They also help Canada meet goals for conserving biodiversity and restoring the economy. Together, Indigenous and Crown governments can deliver positive results for people and the land that sustains us.”

 The project has created 17 jobs within Indigenous communities to date, the news release said. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Gwich’in leaders renew calls to oppose drilling in Alaska Arctic wildlife refuge, CBC News

Greenland/Denmark: Greenland and Denmark finalize cooperation agreement on marine pollution response, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s endangered Saimaa ringed seal population reaches 400, Yle News

Norway: In Arctic Norway, seabirds build nests out of plastic waste, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Mass grey whale strandings may be linked to solar storms, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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