Decolonizing Conservation: How ENGOs Can Support Reconciliation in the Conservation Sector

Presented by Sustainability Network at CSI Annex on Friday, September 21st, 2018.

ICE on Decolonizing Conservation

Decolonizing Conservation: How ENGOs Can Support Reconciliation in the Conservation Sector

As we gathered in the Garage at the Centre for Social Innovation on a very windy Autumnal equinox evening the event began with an opening ceremony led by Elder Gary Sault representing the Mississaugas of the New Credit who guided us through an acknowledgement the land gathered upon. Gary shared some stories and put out the call to end road salt applications as a first step in working towards Indigenous environmental justice locally. Dr. Deborah McGregor proceeded to introduce the panel of speakers from the Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE).

Eli Enns, the Co-Chair of the Indigenous Circle of Experts spoke first. Eli is a Nuu-chah-nulth Canadian political scientist and internationally recognized expert in bio-cultural heritage conservation who spoke with immense insights and an engaging sense of humour. Eli spoke to the relationship of biodiversity with cultural and linguistic diversity and how protocols for conservation are inherent within the knowledge systems of Indigenous languages.

Marilyn Baptiste was next to address the room. Marilyn is a councillor and former Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in British Columbia, one of the six First Nations that make up the Tsilhqot’in Nation which was awarded the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision declaring Aboriginal title in 2014. Marilyn’s contribution emphasized the importance of Indigenous governance for establishing Indigenous-led protocols.

Steven Nitah was next to speak. Steven is a negotiator for Lutsel K’e Dene First Nations and advisor with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. Steven spoke about how english is language of commerce that frames land use in exploitative context rather than discussing Land relationships.

Lisa Young, the Executive Director of Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR), a leading Mi’kmaw natural resources and environmental management organization, then spoke to the crowd about treaty responsibilities to protect Land. Lisa spoke about how protecting the land in a contemporary context requires a two-eyed seeing approach that can sustain people currently as well as future generations.

There was an intriguing question and answer period that followed which included a question about sustainably designed housing developments inside of Indigenous protected areas, which have already been piloted on the West coast enabling domestic life to exist in principles of stewardship rather than ownership. This event was very inspirational and informative posing environmentalism as a first step towards reconciliation. The audience, which consisted mostly of people involved with Environmental NGO’s, was educated to better understand that the long-standing relationships of Indigenous peoples with the Land and the revitalization of the traditional economies which have been displaced by colonization and and colonial conceptions of conservation are essential to creating ecologically harmonious civilizations.

By Max Corne-Klein