July 13, 2012

Canadian parks incorporate Native culture

Many of Canada’s National Parks Now Honor First Nations Peoples

By Hans TammemagiParks Canada, founded in 1911, was the world’s first national parks service. The government wanted a dedicated organization to protect the habitat, pursue education and tourism opportunities and establish additional parks. Since then Parks Canada has grown into a formidable organization, with 5,000 employees (40 percent of them seasonal) and an annual budget of about $800 million. It oversees 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites (including the Rideau Canal and the Fortress of Louisbourg) and four national marine conservation areas. Parks Canada’s goal is to create at least one national park in each of the nation’s 39 distinct natural regions. Right now, they have all but 10 of the regions covered.

Many national parks have initiated projects that enhance traditional Native values. The Fort Folly First Nation, for example, worked with staff of the Bay of Fundy National Park (in New Brunswick, with the world’s highest tides) to build an interpretive trail highlighting and describing traditional medicinal plants. At Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland, the expertise of Miawpukek First Nation was essential in locating and mapping out the patches of rare boreal felt lichen.

When the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans closed the fishery in and around Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick, the Elsipogtog First Nation disputed how the fish stocks had been calculated and launched a reassessment that caused the government to rethink its decision. The First Nation also worked with the park to study salmon populations in the Richibucto River and to develop a restoration scheme combining aboriginal knowledge and scientific protocols. The Kouchibouguac park staff also works to help preserve Native languages and foster education programs involving Native culture.

Wood Buffalo National Park was established in the southern Northwest Territories in 1922 to protect wood bison from extinction. In an important shift in policy, it was acknowledged during the creation of this park that prohibiting the traditional activities of aboriginal peoples there would be detrimental to the habitat. Consequently, Native hunting and trapping and other activities were allowed to continue. This marked the first time Parks Canada had involved aboriginal peoples’ interests in a decision regarding park management.
And:Parks That Best Incorporate and Showcase Indigenous Culture

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia

Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory

Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario

Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories

Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador
Comment:  For more on Canadian parks, see Doig Reserve Plans Tribal Park and Musicians Celebrate Canada's National Parks.

Below:  "Glaciers in Quttinirpaaq National Park."

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