Ernie Bussidor in winter

New Year Greetings from Executive Director Ernie Bussidor

Now that a New Year 2021 is upon us, we, the five Indigenous communities which surround the Seal River Watershed, find ourselves finding ways to keep ourselves in continued isolation due to the pandemic and other troubling matters that affect the world outside.

We can rejoice in the knowledge that, although we are small Indigenous communities in the north, we are doing our part to protect Mother Earth, with our plans to preserve and protect our amazing Seal River Watershed from industrial development.

The beauty of our circumstances is that the total watershed is within a distinct region (and largely within the province of Manitoba). It is the largest remaining river ecosystem in the province that is intact and pristine.

It is also home to the Cree, Dene and Inuit people, who have lived in this region for many generations in relative harmony and peace, subsisting on what the earth and waters provides as food for nourishment. Stories from our Elders — of harmony, friendship and sharing what we have with our neighbors — are all part of our history.

A renewed sense of hope, and a clear path ahead of us by creating an Alliance of peoples united in common purpose to “protect and preserve the earth”— is music to the ears of our Elders, and inspires a new sense of opportunity and purpose and direction for our youth.

We also have to “walk the talk” by reminding ourselves how delicate and fragile our environment is. We should all be mindful of keeping our communities clean, and promoting green energy for our communities (the majority of which are serviced by diesel generators and diesel fuel).

There are so many avenues of optimism and opportunity, as we ponder the economics that can be derived from cultural and ecological tourism, as another way of generating jobs for our people, and for others.

Our rich and diverse history, culture and languages have to be the backbone of our developmental aspirations.

Establishing an Indigenous Protected Area is a good opportunity for the Province of Manitoba, the general public, the First Nations, the lodge owners, the urban communities in the region, and everyone else who wishes to partake in this endeavor to develop this region utilizing Indigenous knowledge and principles. There are so many positive attributes to this project, and it all clearly shows that “its time has come”.

The unfortunate onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last Spring (2020) has not stopped us in our pursuits. We have taken the time to develop the Seal River Watershed Alliance Corporation, literally from the ground up. All the policies, regulations, mandates, contracts, duties/responsibilities, and every other matter related to the creation of a not-for-profit Environmental Indigenous Organization was not easy, but it is almost done and will be presented to the Board of Directors for approval soon.

Two caribou bulls in winter

As well, we have to build our “case for conservation.” Support from the general public through polling, pertinent scientific studies related to quality of water, wildlife, waterfowl, fish, air and ground have also been undertaken and amalgamated (or are in the plans), as well as carbon data studies, all in our hands to present to governments to emphasize how important this project is — to ourselves, the province and the world and why we need their support.

We are at a point in our project where we will be searching for interested people from the communities to be the Advisory Bodies to our project as we move forward: Elders Advisory Groups, Youth Advisory Groups, Women of the Watershed Advisory Groups, Hunters & Trappers Organizations, Off-Reserve Advisory Groups, or any other interested group. Collectively, or individually as communities.

Indigenous knowledge is very important, and it has to be the focus as we lay down the principles by which we are to stand united and manage this huge area together, and how we can all play a part in its development.

So, with that, on behalf of the Seal River Watershed Alliance management team, I wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2021. Let’s all pitch in to make this a year to remember, for ourselves, our relations and for the sake of our natural world around us!

Masi Cho!
Ernie Bussidor
Executive Director
Seal River Watershed Alliance