Building Relationships: Indigenous engagement in the Biosphere
By Bob Montgomery, Indigenous Engagement Coordinator
We are walking on the land in a new way. Over the past months it has been challenging to build new relationships with Nations who have lived with these lands for millennia. With the pandemic raging many of us have been relegated to our home offices and have limited chances to meet, visit, share meals and build the type of reciprocal relationships we are used to.
Change is on the horizon with the easing of provincial mandates and with vaccine numbers increasing we can begin to think about being out on the land together again; just in time too. Many Indigenous folks are in a season of preparation and gathering of our medicines. The Beaver Hills is lush with new growth.
With plants on our minds, Beaver Hills introduced a virtual summer book club. Our first book is “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. Every three weeks we meet over the lunch hour to explore our personal and philosophical connection to plants and expand our perspectives about Indigenous knowledges. The conversations have been rich and transport us into our lived memories of time spent in the Beaver Hills.
In an effort to (re)build some of those lost connections, we hosted a webinar entitled: kiwîtapimâkanak ôma niyanân ôta askihk (We are your neighbours). Indigenous Nations from across Treaty 6 and the Métis homelands were invited to learn more about what the Beaver Hills Biosphere is and does but also how we can do better by including Indigenous perspectives. We are beginning to learn about the Nations whose traditional territory the Beaver Hills rests upon. We have so much to learn from our hosts and about how to be good neighbours and are very excited to continue to build those connections.
Some Indigenous people have already been connecting with the Biosphere and sharing their perspectives in our Human-Wildlife Coexistence project. We are learning about the unique worldviews that Indigenous peoples often bring to their interactions with the land through their stories and perspectives of how we can live more harmoniously with our non-human kin.
We have many new and exciting projects in the works to facilitate Indigenous connection and presence in the Beaver Hills, stay tuned for our next update in upcoming BHB Bulletins.