KEEPING THE LAND: INDIGENOUS LAND USE STRATEGY
Gary A Schlueter, June 23, 2022, https://garyaschlueter.substack.com/p/keeping-the-land
On June 26, 2006 Pikangikum First Nation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officially endorsed: 'Keeping the Land, A Land Use Strategy for the Whitefeather Forest and Adjacent Areas.' Both parties acted in good faith and with mutual respect "for the aspirations of both planning partners."
Therein lies the key to the Strategy's success, two words, 'planning partners.' With good faith and mutual respect they will plan the future of the Whitefeather Forest and those adjacent areas.
(I have a feeling there is wisdom in those adjacent areas, not so such the physical areas, but in the wiggle room it gives. Forests want to grow. If every maple and oak sapling in my yard grew to maturity this place would again be a woods. Forest wants to come back. 'Adjacent Areas' allows for that growth.)
Pikangikum Nation are Algonquian speaking Ojibwe living in Kenora District in extreme western Ontario. In my opinion, Kenora should be Indian-managed land. I urge, whoever needs urging, that the Land Use Strategy developed and agreed upon for the Whitefeather Forest be extended to include all land in the District of Kenora that is currently under Ontario's obligation.
Chief Dean Owen and Charlie Lauer were the signatories of the Initiative in 2006 but it began10 years earlier when then Chief Paddy Peters witnessed the results of clear-cutting on neighboring land not under Pikangikum care. "See all this clear cutting, it is near our community and we have to do something about this," he said.
His people had been turning away offers by commercial lumber operations to log their forest. "Our people cannot just continue to say no," he said. "If we continue to say no we are going to be left out of the benefits. We have to do something about this for our community."
As newly elected chief in 1996 he was in a position to act on new ideas about forest management. The tribe's economic development officer Peter Quill proceeded to find information on how to do forestry work for the Pikangikum tribal community.
Elder Solomon Turtle expanded on the idea: "We started this Initiative because of the land. The people of Pikangikum have lived on this land for a long time and this is how we survived . . . We started this for our youth. For my part, I am now old so I need to plan for their future."
The Initiative covers much more than logging operations. It also includes mineral development, tourism and other economic development opportunities. It covers all of these things not as profit driven capitalist ventures, but as community driven cooperative ventures with the Pikangikum calling the shots based on their ancient environmental ethic Keetoomay Keewayahtoon (give back or return to the land).
As the agreement states, "We are taking the lead for decision making on the lands that we have been raised on, that we know most intimately; these are the ancestral lands that we are responsible for ensuring continue to provide for our people."
"The Whitefeather Forest is described as a cultural landscape, with special meaning for Pikangikum people, past, present and future," according to Charlie Lauer, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. "Pikangikum sets out a vision for a strong community future, where new resource-based activities will support economic renewal in harmony with Pikangikum people's cultural legacy."
Chief Dan Owen's message thanked the elders. "Years of hard work by many people have gone into this Land Use Strategy. In all these years, our Elders have never wavered in their dedication and commitment to the planning process. Likewise during this time, the commitment of the MNR to supporting the Whitefeather Forest Initiative planning process and being a partner with us has also remained constant."
"It is nothing short of a profound duty to ensure that the Planning Area and its ecological legacy are sustained into the future. This is a duty that is shared by every person from every culture."
Chief Dan concluded, "For this we can all be proud."