The Seal River Watershed Alliance met in Thompson in August 2020 to advance our work towards establishing an Indigenous Protected Area that reflects our common values and vision for the watershed.
The significance of the meeting was underlined by the presence of three chiefs: Sayisi Dene First Nation (SDFN) Chief Evan Yassie; O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN) Chief Shirley Ducharme and Northlands Denesuline First Nation (NDFN) Chief Simon Denechezhe. Barren Lands First Nation (BLFN) Councillor Trina Halkett, who was recently elected chief, and Councillor Georgina Custer from BLFN were also in attendance. Inuit representatives were unable to attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
It was the first in-person meeting of the Alliance board of directors, who were appointed by chiefs and council to represent the interests of SDFN, NDFN, OPCN and BLFN. The board was appointed as part of the process of establishing a non-profit organization to govern and oversee the Alliance.
Executive Director Ernie Bussidor opened the two-day meeting with an impassioned overview of the vision for a protected area that is managed according to Dene, Cree and Inuit customs and laws. He also provided an update on the substantial progress made to date.
A strategic framework which outlined the path forward for establishing an Indigenous Protected Area received unanimous and enthusiastic support from the chiefs, board members and other participants following a presentation by Director of Operations Stephanie Thorassie.
Presentations and support were provided by: Project Manager Mandy Wallmann; Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Manitoba Chapter; and Larry Innes and Ashley Stacy of OKT Law.
The meeting was opened and closed with prayers and drumming. We were invigorated by the spirit of cooperation and the strong commitment to preserving the watershed expressed by all who participated.
We ask our ancestors to guide us in this work that we are doing for our children, our grandchildren and those yet to come.
Sayisi Dene First Nation
Chief Evan Yassie
Elder Johnny Clipping
Councillor Jason Bussidor
Elder Edna Thorassie
Northlands Denesuline First Nation
Chief Simon Denechezhe
Elder Joe Hyslop
Elder Napolean Denechezhe
Councillor Augustine Tssesaze
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation
Chief Shirley Ducharme
Chief Executive Officer Michael Dumas
Barren Lands First Nation
Councillor Trina Halkett (now Chief)
Councillor Georgina Custer
Seal River Watershed Alliance Staff
Executive Director Ernie Bussidor
Executive Assistant/Assistant Manager Stephanie Thorassie
Project Manager Mandy Wallmann
Seal River Watershed Alliance Board Members
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Manitoba Chapter
Executive Director Ron Thiessen