TORONTO | Traditional territory of many nations — including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples — and now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples — A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation and Decolonizing Water demonstrates how the governance back movement is gaining ground globally, and highlights case studies where Indigenous land stewardship responsibilities and relationships have been successfully recognized by governments and private citizens.
“Governance Back: Exploring Indigenous Approaches to Reclaiming Relationships with Land” sets out a new vision of the future in Canada, and around the world, where Indigenous Peoples are responsible to and for their lands and waters in ways that ensure Indigenous laws and governance are upheld. It comes at a time when global resource extraction in pursuit of endless economic growth has landed the world in the middle of a mass extinction and biodiversity crisis.
“The Canadian colonial project is failing to uphold its responsibility to maintain the health of the land and all the species on it,” said Rachel Plotkin, co-author of the report and boreal project manager at the David Suzuki Foundation.
“Canadians are looking for ways to heal from the harms of our colonial past and build a more just future, but often lack a clear way forward. This report profiles innovative governance models that can be used as templates for positive change.”
The report profiles eight case studies where relationships and governance have been restored to Indigenous Peoples — from Canada to the United States to Australia. In one Canadian example, Indigenous Peoples worked with a municipality to safeguard the Magpie river on which they depend by recognizing its legal personhood. In another, the transfer of land management responsibilities and re-establishment of cultural practices meant shifting land governance to the Indigenous Peoples who had stewarded it for millennia prior to colonization. In others, mechanisms included developing modern treaties and gradually turning over land tenures.
“There isn’t just one approach to reclaiming and revitalizing Indigenous governance relating to land and water,” said Aimée Craft, report co-author, research chair in Indigenous governance in relationship with land and water (UOttawa) and co-lead of Decolonizing Water. “Each is unique and responsive to the nations, lands and waters in their own context.”
The report is intended to serve as a road map for provinces, organizations and landowners interested in advancing reconciliation and affecting change.
On November 3, a webinar with Craft, Plotkin and Amah Mutsun Tribal Band chair Valentin Lopez will explore the report’s findings. Click here to register.
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The David Suzuki Foundation (DavidSuzuki.org | @DavidSuzukiFdn) is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including First Nations leadership and communities, governments, businesses and individuals to find solutions to create a sustainable Canada through scientific research, traditional ecological knowledge, communications and public engagement, and innovative policy and legal solutions. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future.