Wahkohtowin at COP 15, the indigenous village and indigenous led conservation
Wahkohtowin attended the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) conference in Bali to represent the interests of Indigenous communities in responsible forest management and sustainable forestry practices.
....this year was special because the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) hosted an Indigenous Village to “shine the spotlight on the leadership of Indigenous Peoples in sustaining biodiversity in Canada and around the world”
In December 2022, leaders from 196 countries gathered in Montreal to attend COP15, which is held every two years to discuss ways to protect and conserve nature to slow biodiversity loss around the world. However, this year was special because the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) hosted an Indigenous Village to “shine the spotlight on the leadership of Indigenous Peoples in sustaining biodiversity in Canada and around the world” (ILI). As the only national Indigenous-led conservation organization in Canada, the ILI set up a beautiful 100-foot ‘Innu Shapatuan’, to offer a space where “Indigenous Peoples can feel welcome and recognized as leaders in the global effort to conserve biodiversity” (ILI). There were cultural demonstrations, panels and presentations going on inside the Shapatuan which was focussed largely on Indigenous approaches to caring for the lands and waters. Wahkohtowin staff members David Flood and Amberly Quakegesic were invited to participate in the three-day event as well as deliver a presentation about Wahkohtowin’s approach to ‘Full participation in the benefits of Indigenous-led nature-based climate solutions’ (ILI). We shared about the many services that Wahkohtowin provides, the direction that Wahkohtowin is heading, and we spoke about all the amazing people we collaborate with in order to meet the demands of our three owner First Nation communities.
I learned a lot at this conference, including the fact that biodiversity loss is also known as the ‘silent crisis’ because it’s not at obvious, especially if you do not spend a lot of time on the land. The goal of “30 by 30” means that 30% of the earths lands and waters are to be protected by 2030. It came as no surprise to learn that about 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity is on Indigenous lands, which covers 20 to 25 per cent of the land on Earth (CFR). Indigenous-led conservation just makes sense. The ILI was excited to announce the launching of the National Indigenous Guardians Network, which will connect Guardian programs across Canada to work together in sharing knowledge, sharing stories and sharing about ways to rekindle our relationships with mother earth. Guardian programs connect youth to land, culture community and self. When we spend time on the land learning about all the ways in which is provides everything we need, we learn that we have an innate responsibility to give back.
Guardians are land stewards; they are the boots on the ground and the eyes and ears of the land. Indigenous knowledge systems understand that everything is connected and that our very own survival depends on solving this biodiversity crisis. Sometimes it feels like not enough people care about healthy lands and waters, but attending the Indigenous Village taught me otherwise. I was surrounded by Indigenous leaders, delegates, activists and people from all walks of life who are passionate about protecting nature. I was fortunate to be able to work with the Lands Needs Guardians campaign all weekend, interviewing Indigenous leaders from all over the world. It was an emotional experience to listen to Indigenous people sharing about the similar challenges they are facing back home, but it was even more empowering to learn about what they are doing to rise up. There was an undeniable energy in the air all weekend, it was all very motivational and left me feeling both inspired and hopeful. I would encourage people to pay attention to these climate and biodiversity summits and to get involved and learn about the Guardian programs in your area. The first step is learning what we can do to help, there is a lot of work to be done and the only way to do it is together.