Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Zoom meeting

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Supports Seal River Watershed IPA

The Seal River Watershed unfolds in waves of forests, clean waters, and wetlands as far as the eye can see. It gives the Dene, Cree, and Inuit Peoples the space we need to practice our cultures.

We sustain our relationships with caribou, belugas, waterfowl, and medicinal plants because the lands remain vibrant. We can pass our traditions on to the next generation because these lands continue to sustain us. 

And we can welcome the world to our world by expanding the ecological and cultural tourism sector in northern Manitoba; laying the groundwork for a range of entrepreneurs to create new community-based businesses.

Healthy lands support healthy people and healthy Nations. 

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs recognizes this connection. The Assembly sent a letter on May 5, 2021 expressing support of the Seal River Watershed Initiative to protect 50,000 square kilometres of the watershed as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). 

The Assembly called this effort “an amazing feat to be undertaken by First Nations who have always been stewards of our lands and waters for thousands of years. We commend you for leading this important initiative.” 

Indigenous leadership is at the root of this project. Four First Nations have come together with support from our Inuit neighbours to establish the Seal River Watershed IPA. We are driving this conservation and sustainable economic development effort forward on behalf of our communities. We are fulfilling our cultural responsibility to care for the land, and we are asserting our vision for the watershed. 

Members of Sayisi Dene First Nation paddling the Seal River in 2017. Credit: Ernie Bussidor
Members of Sayisi Dene First Nation paddling the Seal River in 2017. Credit: Ernie Bussidor

Our stewardship will include sustainable economic development which will create sustainable jobs for community members. Our economic development strategy will ensure that future generations will benefit from community-based businesses with a particular focus on ecological and cultural tourism and a guardian program. We will work with existing outfitters to grow tourism opportunities together and attract new investors necessary to build the infrastructure to support the additional tourism.

A Guardian program will bring good-paying jobs and also foster local and regional economic opportunities. Recently, the establishment of a similar IPA and Guardians program injected $500,000 into the local and regional economy with the purchase of boats, snowmobiles and gear to help in the co-management of the protected area. For more details see: https://www.ilinationhood.ca/publications/backgroundereconomics

Creating the Seal River Watershed IPA will strengthen our Nations. At the same time, it will help Canada sustain biodiversity and combat climate change. In the letter, the Assembly noted that the IPA will help the country meet its goal of protecting 25% of lands and freshwaters by 2025. 

The Seal River Watershed Alliance is honoured to receive the Assembly’s support. The Assembly represents all Chiefs in the province, and their endorsement is a positive and hopeful sign.

It’s part of the growing momentum in favour of the Seal River Watershed IPA.

According to a Probe Research survey, 83% of Manitobans endorse the Seal River Watershed Alliance’s proposal to establish the IPA. When asked about the best way to grow the economy in the Seal River Watershed, a resounding 78% chose protecting the area/fostering tourism over development such as mining. 

Most Manitobans said when it comes to protecting and managing lands, local First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples “know what’s best for the area.” It’s true the Dene, Cree, and Inuit within the watershed have a deep love and knowledge of this land and the caribou, birds, fish, and clean waters here. 

It’s also great to see the recent acknowledgement of IPCAs by the Manitoba government

We are drawing on that expertise to establish the IPA, to work with our neighbours, and to create a better future for all Canadians. Our success will also ensure we continue to be Dene, Cree, and Inuit in relationship to these lands and waters.