By Jessica Numminen, 2nd year MDP Student
The Anishinaabe Initiatives Division and the Department of Geography & Geology at Algoma University hosted the Symposium Gdo Akiiminaan Ganawendandann (Taking Care of our Land) from May 5th – 6th, 2015 in Sault Ste. Marie. During the opening proceedings organizers of the conference recognized that a conversation with the MCFN Chief Jason Gauthier about the Missanabie Cree new land base was the catalyst for the development of the conference and the hope that it is just the beginning of many more conferences in the coming years.
We were taken on a bus tour of Batchewana First Nation with Chief Dean Sayers who shared his knowledge, teachings and rich history of the lands. He explained the success of community economic development and the well-being of their territory is tied to the assertion of their jurisdiction and sovereignty over these lands.
|Chief Dean Sayers (L) and Jessica Numminen (R) along the Chippewa River|
During the two-day conference there were a total of 23 presenters, which included 4 keynote speakers, poster presentations and presentations from Elders, knowledge holders, the grassroots practitioners, academics, and students. These presentations covered a diversity of topics that highlighted challenges, successes and the ongoing work of what land stewardship is and can be.
Some highlights were:
- The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Rail Train (CAPT) and the ongoing work and partnerships i.e. with Missanabie Cree First Nation.
- How GIS is being used by Wahnapitae First Nation to strengthen their land use plans that addresses land use and resource management including ways to engage youth from the community to get them involved and out on the land.
- The Serpent River First Nation is developing their own Environmental Review Process for any development within their territory.
- Elder Raymond Owl, in his presentation Working Together to Stop Land Management Practices Harming Our Health, Home and Future Forests, pointed out in order to create change we must not just listen to Elders we must take the advice and do something.
- Deborah McGregor during her talk on Anishinaabe Knowledge Traditions: Governance, Treaties and Environmental Justices pointed out that elders and knowledge holders just don’t have knowledge, they also teach us how to understand Anishinabeg knowledge based on the Anishinabeg natural law and its systems.
The conference focused on what is happening in Aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario and it offered a great opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and teachings and innovative approaches to community development.