Bloodvein River First Nation joins efforts to protect Boreal Forest through World Heritage Site

Posted on March 11th, 2010

Bloodvein River First Nation has joined the quest for a World Heritage Site on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. As an active member of Pimachiowin Aki – a unique partnership to safeguard the Anishinabe culture and the boreal forest – Bloodvein River First Nation joins the First Nations of Poplar River, Little Grand Rapids, Paungassi and Pikangikum as well as the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario.

William Young, band councilor and spokesperson for Bloodvein First Nation, reveals that more than half of the community’s traditional territory of 4300 square kilometres will be added to the current 40,000 square kilometres in the proposed World Heritage Site area. He states it is likely more land will be included after consultation with community membership.

Bloodvein River First Nation is located 210 kilometres north of Winnipeg along three kilometres of shoreline on the east side of Lake Winnipeg directly north of the Bloodvein River. It is home to about 1500 residents both on and off the reserve.

The east side of Lake Winnipeg contains the last remaining intact primary boreal forest in the world and has been called “the Heart of the Boreal.” The boreal forest is important globally as it slows climate change by storing carbon in its trees and soils thereby keeping it away from the atmosphere. It also produces much of the world’s oxygen and fresh water. In the Heart of the Boreal, First Nations people have maintained an intimate relationship with the landscape in which their lives continue to depend. World Heritage Status would place the area on the east side of Lake Winnipeg among such wonders as the pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

“I see it as a huge benefit to our First Nation and the other First Nations involved. It’s a very unique opportunity and of significance that both the Ontario and Manitoba provincial governments are involved and have made commitments giving us the opportunity to designate our traditional territory towards a World Heritage Site.”
“In terms of protection, management is the key word from a First Nations perspective. We want to establish economic opportunities, eco-tourism opportunities, sustainable opportunities for the membership here at the community level.”

Young indicates that a World Heritage Site can help protect the boreal forest as well as the cultural landscape by forwarding sustainable development initiatives such as eco-tourism. Involved in Eastside Aboriginal Sustainable Tourism (E.A.S.T.) Incorporated, an economic development initiative supporting the development and expansion of Aboriginal tourism businesses on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, Young is also owner of Bloodvein River Lodge which provides activities in addition to fishing such as teachings about First Nation’s values and history. Citing his grandfather’s wisdom, Young says that the encroachment of industrial activities is always a concern, and he hopes to protect his traditional territory and to manage it for the needs of the community.

“In terms of protection, management is the key word from a First Nations perspective. We want to establish economic opportunities, eco-tourism opportunities, sustainable opportunities for the membership here at the community level.”

The boreal forest has sustained the communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg for thousands of years. Recognizing that the future of their culture is tied directly to the land, the hope is that protecting Pimachiowin Aki – meaning the land that gives life – as a World Heritage Site will provide employment opportunities while maintaining the ecological health of the boreal. In a land where people have been stewards of the environment for millennia, Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site will ideally protect the natural and cultural values to be shared with the peoples of the world now and in the future.

Bloodvein River First Nation is in the process of conducting its community-based land-use plan, required for the World Heritage Site, and anticipates its completion in a year. A nomination document that includes the final boundaries and management plan for Pimachiowin Aki is expected to be completed in 2011.