Growing up in Manitoba’s Interlake, you can’t help but have an appreciation of the wilderness around you. If you are away from it for any period of time, the lake itself calls to you. Its influence is age old and bone deep.
Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN) understands this connection to Mother Earth. In 1999, FRCN asked the Government of Manitoba to create an area to be protected from industrial developments. The government designated an 89,000 ha area a park reserve, which is now protected from development until 2010 when a final designation is to be made.
FRCN continued to look at ecological studies and to consider community values. In 2006, they increased their request to include 160,000 hectares, though this additional area has yet to be included within the park reserve, and asked that it become the Ochiwasahow (Fisher Bay) provincial park to be managed jointly by FRCN and the province.
To date the process to create the park appears stalled.
Protecting the Ochiwasahow area makes sense ecologically, economically, and culturally.
The area is home to a variety of animals, birds, fish and plants. Some of this wildlife is endangered and the plants rare. The limestone caves here are home to thousands of hibernating bats. The area acts as a filter for the water and the boreal forest is a supplier of oxygen for the world.
Ochiwasahow supports traditional pursuits such as gathering and trapping. It also supports fishing – the main economic activity of the area. Looking to the future, Fisher River Cree Nation sees cultural and eco-tourism as sustainable, environmentally responsible commercial ventures.
Aboriginal culture includes that what there is should be shared, whether it is food on your table, money in your pocket, or land under your feet. It is essential for us to share what Mother Earth has provided. Fisher River Cree Nation hopes to share the Ochiwasahow area with the rest of Manitoba, Canada, and the world.
Aboriginal elders tell us that Mother Nature must be respected. We must be her guardians. This is a role Fisher River Cree Nation is encouraging all Manitobans to take on with the creation of Ochiwasahow Provincial Park.
Protecting the Ochiwasahow area makes sense for everyone. 10,000 letters were sent from Manitobans to the province in support of the Ochiwasahow Provincial Park. Politicians from four different political parties have rallied in support. Neighbouring communities, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, have lent their support as well.
The provincial government says there are issues to be worked out, issues that include the 2006 park expansion proposal and concerns from other First Nations. The provincial government has vowed to extend the protection of the area beyond 2010 if the issues have not been resolved by then. As it has already been ten years, a better approach would be for the province to actively pursue the steps required to establish the Ochiwasahow (Fisher Bay) provincial park, rather than continuing to delay the process.
Mother Earth cannot afford for us to drag our feet in the fight to protect her. Canadians make one of the largest ecological footprints in the world – we use more of Mother Earth’s resources per capita than most other countries in the entire world.
Fisher River Cree Nation sees the need for Ochiwasahow Provincial Park as a means of safeguarding the very earth that supports our lives. We need to guard Mother Earth. We need Ochiwasahow Provincial Park. The need is immediate.
For more information visit www.fisherriver.com