JULY 25, 2017
SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, MANITOBA — Canadian minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and Manitoba minister of Sustainable Development, Cathy Cox, attended the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba on Monday, to hear from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers on solutions to climate change.
“If you take care of the land, it will take care of you,” began Elder Dennis Whitebird, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and former Treaty Commissioner of Manitoba.
Brought together by the AMC, Manitoba Elders and Knowledge Keepers shared Indigenous understandings of natural law – laws of conduct required to uphold the sacredness and balance of the Earth and all living beings.
Manitoba Elders Harry Bone, Dave Courchene, Katherine Whitecloud, Florence Paytner, Wally Swain, Mary Maytwayashing, D’Arcy Linklater, Dennis Whitebird and Henry Travers presented the federal and provincial ministers with a document many of them had written entitled Ogichi Tibakonigaywin, Kihche’othasowewin, Tako Wakan: The Great Binding Law, highlighting their position.
The Turtle Lodge also presented the ministers with the Onjisay Aki International Climate Calls to Action, developed earlier this summer by Indigenous knowledge keepers and international climate leaders who convened at the lodge, an Indigenous centre of excellence in wellness and education located 100 km north of Winnipeg, from June 8 to 10.
On Tuesday Minister McKenna spoke at the Assembly of First Nations General Assembly in Regina, with a strong acknowledgement to the Turtle Lodge in her opening remarks. McKenna recognized the Elders and Knowledge Keepers for their knowledge, experience, and cultural protocols.
“We sat, we talked, we broke bread, and we learned from each other,” said Minister McKenna. “Elders shared with me a document describing the outcomes of the Onjisay Aki Climate Summit held in June, which brought together Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and international climate leaders. This is a fantastic example of communities contributing to climate change action. I love hearing stories of Indigenous leadership on climate change, and I applaud all the work you are doing and the efforts to do it together.”
The Elders and Knowledge Keepers at Turtle Lodge are hopeful that the relationship that has been started will continue.
Founder of Turtle Lodge, Elder Dave Courchene, stated in his closing comments Monday, “The Elders hope to engage further with the ministers in respectful discussions, and next steps with direct actions that we can take together.”
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