Skownan First Nation wins Excellence in Sustainability Award
Winnipeg, MB (Jan 8, 2015)-- Chief Cameron Catcheway of Skownan First Nation has accepted an award from the Province of Manitoba for Excellence in Sustainability in the category of Water and Natural Areas Stewardship. The community was nominated in recognition of their work toward the designation of Chitek Lake Anishinaabe Provincial Park and for their efforts toward the sustainability of the local fishery.
“Skownan worked with the province for approximately 15 years to establish the park, which encompasses the core of Skownan’s traditional use area, officially designated in 2014,” says Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Manitoba chapter, who nominated the community for the award on behalf of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign. “It is the first to bear the provincial land designation of Indigenous Traditional Use. This designation supports cultural and economic well-being by honouring the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of Skownan members to continue traditional land use practices within the park.”
The park is co-managed by Skownan First Nation and the province and straddles more than 1,000 sq. km of healthy, intact swaths of Aspen Parkland and Precambrian Boreal wilderness. Notably, Chitek Lake is the site of a successful establishment of Manitoba’s only free-roaming herd of North America’s largest land mammal, the threatened wood bison. It is also the only known area on the continent where wood bison are found in boreal habitats with white tailed deer, elk, moose and the threatened woodland caribou. Within the park industrial logging and mining are prohibited, and the wood bison are protected from hunting. With a lodge already in place, the community is exploring various opportunities to develop sustainable ecotourism in the region as a local economic asset.
For Skownan First Nation, Chitek Lake is a place of immense cultural, economic and spiritual and importance. For thousands of years, their community has lived off that land using sustainable land use practices. The park’s first-of-its-kind designation ensures Skownan’s people will continue to care for and be sustained by their traditional lands.
‘’Breathing in the air and seeing the Buffalo, and with no extraction, this is the way of life here’’ says Chief Catcheway. ‘’Keeping it a traditional territory means everything to Skownan. We are one proud community that is rich with our traditional territory – the plants, animals, water, timber and the air we breathe’’.
The community’s sustainability record is further bolstered by their management of a fishery on Waterhen Lake. In 2014 it was the first freshwater fishery in North America (and second in the world) to be designated as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
By working with the Provincial Government over many years, the Skownan community has helped to pave the way for other Indigenous communities to embrace provincial park establishment in a way that acknowledges, upholds and promotes Indigenous Traditional Use.
‘‘It’s a new kind of partnership that we believe is part of larger efforts to see traditional lands locally protected and managed to maintain their potential for future generations” says Thiessen.
Chief Cameron Catcheway holds an Excellence in Sustainability Award accepted on behalf of Skownan First Nation. Photographed with Ron Thiessen