“If we start off talking about how to define traditional lands, we can get stuck. But if we start from where we have common values, such as, preserving our relationship with the land and our sources of food, then that’s a unifying issue and it makes it a lot easier to agree on things.” Heidi Cook, Misipawistik Cree Nation
“It was important for us to take the time, for everybody’s voices to be heard and from there, we developed a strong sense of where we wanted to go. We knew that we were stronger together,” Dahti Tsetso, Resource Management Coordinator for the Dehcho First Nations.
There are many benefits of work together with other communities to develop your Indigenous Guardian program especially when you are starting out (see the Toolkit Section ‘Why form a network or alliance?’). Shared values and interests, common concerns, and a similar geography mean that programs can align at a broader scale with a stronger voice. But how do you ensure that it is done in a good way?
First Nations in northern Manitoba are exploring how to establish a Network when they have diverse histories and backgrounds. Despite the different cultures and language groups in this region, these Nations identified common ground in their shared cultural values. They realized that at the foundation of re-building their nationhoods, they shared a cultural responsibility and spiritual connection to the land. Dave Courchene and Ovide Mercredi, from the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, advised them to create unity on how to move forward in a good way by laying a spiritual foundation for the work. This has involved shared ceremonies and entrusting youth to go to the land and seek a vision for how to move forward. The Misipawistik Cree Nation Guardian program will support their community to re-build their confidence in their natural laws that come from the land. Funding for exploring this regional network is through a grant from the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation.
The Dehcho First Nations in the NWT started their Dehcho K’ehodi Stewardship and Guardians Program by dreaming big and making sure that cultural awareness was the foundation for all their activities. This means involving Elders, community members who know the bush, and youth. “It was important for us to take the time, for everybody’s voices to be heard and from there, we developed a strong sense of where we wanted to go. We knew that we were stronger together,” says Dahti Tsetso, Resource Management Coordinator for the Dehcho First Nations.