WINNIPEG—January 26, 2011—Manitoba and Ontario First Nations leaders led an eight-person delegation to New Zealand this month to share lessons with environmentalists, researchers and Aboriginal people from around the world on how First Nations here are working with governments to protect traditional lands through projects like the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site project and land use planning.
It was evident to the Pimachiowin Aki (pim MATCH cho win – ahh Key) team that Manitoba and Ontario First Nations had some good lessons to share with their Maori counterparts who are also struggling with how to work with other interests groups in efforts to protect the land.
“It was amazing how similar our stories and our connections with the land are with the Maori we met. After the conference we traveled to their traditional lands and a UNESCO site and it was clear they have the same connection with the land that our people have. They face the same challenges trying to figure out how to work with government and environmentalists to take care of the land. We showed them how we’re working on land use plans with the support of our governments and they were impressed,” said Pimachiowin Aki spokesperson Sophia Rabliauskas (raw-BLOUSE-kiss).
Rabliauskas attended the Sharing Power Conference with Pimachiowin Aki team members Elder Oliver Hill and his Ojibwe translator Dean Peters from Ontario’s Pikangikum First Nation and Pimachiowin Aki researcher Dr. Iain Davidson-Hunt who is a faculty member of the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba.
“Before going on this trip I thought that New Zealand was further ahead in terms of partnering with the Maori for the management of protected areas. However, at the meeting it became apparent that conservation in both New Zealand and Canada, as well as elsewhere, still struggles to live up to current international policies regarding indigenous peoples and protected areas” said Davidson-Hunt, who is also the North American Vice-Chair of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The conference was also a good opportunity to show case the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project to international experts some who are involved in evaluation of UNESCO World Heritage proposals – such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that co-sponsored the conference.
As a special honour the Maori invited Elder Oliver Hill, who presented his community’s White Feather Forest Initiative to the conference, to participate in two of their traditional opening ceremonies as an honourable guest.
The other Canadian speakers included Grand Chief Stan Beardy and Carol Ann Audet of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, from Thunder Bay, Ontario and Russell Diabo and Rosanne Van Schie of Wolf Lake First Nation, Quebec.
The Pimachiowin Aki Corporation is working on a nomination document due in 2012 that will propose a vast track of land that straddles the Manitoba-Ontario boarder be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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For more information or interviews contact:
Gord Jones, Project Manager, Pimachiowin Aki,
Shirley Muir, Communications Lead, Pimachiowin Aki