Saskatchewan Hosts One of Only Four Métis Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Canada

For Immediate Release

Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, Tuesday, March 9, 2021:  In November of 2019, the A la Baie Metis Local 21, in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, signed an agreement with Environment and Climate Change Canada as part of the Canada Nature Fund, Target I Challenge to establish an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA).  This project is to assist Canada in meeting climate change targets set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As one of 37 IPCAs in Canada, this project is one of only four Métis projects across Canada. The project name is Sakitawak Conservation IPCA.  Sakitawak is Cree for ‘where the rivers meet’ and adapted in French is Île-à-la-Crosse.

Many Indigenous people throughout Canada still live on and off the land.  Land involves the waterways that feed into and surround these lands.  Métis people have been harvesting fish, plants, berries, and animals as a means of survival for hundreds of years rooted in traditional belief systems. Métis harvesters maintain a fine balance between meeting the needs of their people and protecting wildlife and their habitats.

Île-à-la-Crosse is a Métis and Woodland Cree village of 1,400 people located in the boreal forest of North America. Boreal means in or from the north in French. Île-à-la-Crosse is the second oldest community in Western Canada, following the establishment of the Red River Colony in 1811.  It sits at the end of a 20 km long peninsula on the western shore of Lac Île-à-la-Crosse and is linked with Peter Pond Lake (historically Buffalo Lake) and Churchill Lake (historically Clear Lake) through a series of interconnected lakes, rivers, and portage routes. Sakitawak includes the Churchill River, the Beaver River, and the Canoe River systems.  This river system converges into Ile a la Crosse and serve the English River District, Beaver Lake, Green Lake, Lac La Loche, and Lac La Ronge.

IPCAs focus on protecting and conserving ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance, and knowledge systems. Indigenous communities in these areas take on the responsibility of protecting and conserving ecosystems. While the individual conservation objectives of each IPCA will differ, all of them endeavor to elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities by affirming the validity of Indigenous legal traditions, customary and cultural practices as well as their abilities to help conserve biodiversity in Canada.

IPCAs present a unique opportunity to heal both the land and the people who inhabit it by moving towards true reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settler societies. Things once withheld or unavailable to these communities may be developed through these areas, such as a stable foundation for local Indigenous economies, opportunities for Indigenous peoples to reconnect with the land, and the revitalization of Indigenous languages. The promotion of respect for the knowledge systems, protocols and ceremonies of Indigenous peoples provides an opportunity for Canadians to formulate a greater understanding of Indigenous cultures.

In Canada, two-thirds of the IPCAs are expected to establish a protected or conserved area   as establishment projects.  One-third of the projects are capacity-building projects, focused on preliminary work for protected and conserved areas of the longer term (5 to 10 years).  These projects help to improve connectivity, advance Indigenous-led conservation, and reconciliation, and have co-benefits for species at risk or carbon storage.  The Sakitawak Conservation Area Project is a preliminary work project. 

In Saskatchewan, the effects of climate change and industry activity such as mining and commercial logging clear cutting, if left unchecked without proper conservation, will leave irreversible damage to the Saskatchewan landscape many take for granted.  The overall biodiversity in the boreal, an area known as the earth’s lungs, filters pollution such as carbon dioxide.  Certain areas that are being considered for commercial logging in Northern Saskatchewan are home to rare medicines not found elsewhere, old-growth pine, and calving areas of the Woodland Caribou – a species designated a Threatened Species under the federal Species at Risk Act and The Wildlife Act, 1998 in Saskatchewan. 

The Sakitawak Conservation Area Project is mandated to protect habitats of vulnerable species by promoting sustainable development practices, advance Indigenous ways of life, identify knowledge systems and implement stewardship activities. These include Woodland Caribou, Moose, old-growth pine, migratory birds, and various fish species.  It must also promote sustainable development practices, advance Indigenous ways of life, identify knowledge systems, and implement stewardship activities.  

The Sakitawak Conservation IPCA is managed by the Sakitawak Conservation Area Management Team made up of members from the ICS4, a group of self governance and civic representatives with two members from the Village of Île-à-la-Crosse, two members from the A La Baie Métis Local 21, and one member each from the Big Island Fisherman’s Cooperative and the N-14 Trapper’s Association.  It has joined other environment and education organizations including Ducks Unlimited Canada, CPAWS, PARC, and Gabriel Dumont Institute to create strong sustainable partnerships in conservation, stewardship, education, and environmental protection. 

Ducks Unlimited Canada – Saskatchewan (DUC)

The Sakitawak project area hosts a diversity of wetland habitat types across the landscape making it an important region for wetland and waterfowl conservation.  Supporting both people and wildlife, the region’s wetlands include critical habitats for breeding and migrating waterfowl, Woodland Caribou and other species.  They also sequester vast amounts of carbon.  We are pleased to be a partner with the Sakitawak Conservation Area Management Team and support the advancement of the IPCA.  [Mark Kornder, Conservation Programs Specialist, Ducks Unlimited Canada, National Boreal Program]

Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC)

At PARC we are very much looking forward to working with the Ile-a-la Crosse community and supporting the Sakitawak Conservation Plan with local information about climate change, including insights we receive from Elders and other members of the community. [Dr. Dave Sauchyn, Director, Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative]

To learn more about the Sakitawak Conservation IPCA please visit our website at:

www.sakitawakconservation.org.    

To see a complete list of IPCAs in Canada visit:

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/nature-legacy/canada-target-one-challenge.html

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Kelly Patrick, Director, Sakitawak Conservation IPCA – (416) 262-4981

Peter Durocher, Manager, Sakitawak Conservation IPCA – (639) 832-7117

sakitawakconservation@gmail.com