Building Partnerships

Working together to return the current to the water through burning of the plants. 

māmawī isīcikewina kitā mino pānīk sīpī ka pimiciwāk ōci kasasīskamāk macipakwa.
Listen to Cree

-Donald Nabess (Cree)

We practiced reciprocity: We took from the land, but we cleaned it up, we gave back to it.

ki-apācitānow “āpācītowin”: ki ōtinānow askīk ōci, maka kāwi kipamitānow asici, ē-wicītayāk.
Listen to Cree

-Solomon Carrière (Cree/Métis/First Nations)

...

 

The application of Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management requires proactive coordination and cooperation across multiple sectors, areas of expertise, geography and orders of government.

Taking a coordinated, collaborative approach in applying Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management on the land means to

  • take time and make commitments, which include in-person contact and access to funding;
  • build on the existing efforts and knowledge systems of a wide range of rightsholders, for example, Indigenous communities and orders of government, and stakeholders, for example, land users, wildfire agencies and educators;
  • engage communities in the spirit of mutual respect, understanding, reciprocity ( apacītowin and good will. This can mean working within and across cultures and jurisdictions;

Remember: Nothing about us, without us.

It is important to recognize that readers will likely be at different stages of readiness in their journey of Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land.

So, as part of building partnerships, what does allyship mean and how can someone be an ally?

Allyship means a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with marginalized groups.

It is an active, consistent and challenging practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and assumptions.[1]

Essentially, before any of us can be an ally, we must know who we are, and what and who have shaped us, so that we can acknowledge all of ourselves.

When we can truly acknowledge, accept and respect ourselves, we can begin to open our hearts, minds and souls to the experiences of others.

Allyship requires this—this is not an optional step!

Allies seek to

  • understand and have empathy for individuals and groups who experience discrimination and oppression through active listening and acknowledgement of their lived experiences;
  • promote and empower but not to speak for marginalized individuals and groups; and
  • commit to action in correcting injustices and promoting balance through respect, cultural humility and inclusion.[2]

Allyship Resources

For more information about allyship, check out the following resources:

Once somebody commits to being an ally, they have the responsibility to walk the talk. This responsibility includes understanding and practicing cultural safety.

As part of fire reconciliation, building partnerships fosters the principles of cultural safety.

What Does Cultural Safety Look Like in Fire Stewardship?

According to the 2021 research study, Giving Voice to Cultural Safety of Indigenous Wildland Firefighters in Canada, cultural safety was defined by Indigenous wildland firefighters across Canada as

  • honouring Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, cultural practices and customs. This process of honouring includes protecting one’s cultural identity and way of life, for example, embracing cultural beliefs and values. Cultural safety also includes having a sense of belonging to others and to the land and a sense of responsibility to safeguard Mother Earth, for example, protecting the land and artifacts; and
  • having an inclusive and respectful work environment. In an inclusive and respectful work environment, one does not have to worry about racism, discrimination, harassment and stereotypes; people’s cultures, values and beliefs are respected; workers look out for one another as a crew or team; and people educate each other about their cultural identity or identities.

Building partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and groups can help secure fire reconciliation and habitat restoration in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

Building relationships about Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land are important, but you might be wondering, how do you fund such a collaboration between rightsholders and stakeholders?

Access to sustainable funding is possible but requires fact-finding, determination and time to locate and secure funds to develop and implement Indigenous-led fire stewardship programs on Crown lands, reserve lands and Métis communities.

A Call to Action

In order to transform funding to include small-scale burning projects and large-scale burning programs, we need flexible, multi-year funding in Canada and Saskatchewan that is holistic and comprehensive.

In particular, it is important for funders to enhance their recognition and understanding of Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management to support timely, accessible and culturally relevant investments in Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land.

2022: TEK fire practitioners monitoring a burn in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

2022: TEK fire practitioners monitoring a burn in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

If and when funding is obtained, what are ways to build capacity on Indigenous-led uses of fire on the land?

Here is a story about the work of the Prince Albert Grand Council Wildfire Task Force.

Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Wildfire Task Force

The PAGC Task Force was established in 2018 to ensure that First Nations have input on all aspects of wildfire policy: from firefighting and suppression strategies to legislation that governs wildfire management that may restrict Indigenous-led fire practices.

The PAGC Task Force is guided by Elders and a technical advisory group of First Nations wildfire and emergency management experts. The Task Force recognizes the vast Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and wildland firefighting expertise of First Nations Peoples in northern Saskatchewan and the need to braid knowledge systems.

The PAGC Task Force developed an inclusive and collaborative approach aimed at developing relationships between PAGC and provincial government officials, in part, through invitation to participate in annual meetings.

Following a review of 2018 policies, the Task Force released a series of policy recommendations that resulted in

  • changing how fires are fought, for example, moving from five- to 10-person fire crews,
  • increasing the hiring of experienced First Nations firefighters, and
  • affirming the need to document Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.

Going forward, the PAGC Task Force is working on many projects with researchers, including policy experts, fire scientists, land users and Indigenous fire practitioners to improve wildfire governance for PAGC member Nations.

In 2021, through Natural Resources Canada, the PAGC Wildfire Task Force was awarded funding to begin the PAGC Wildfire Resilience Initiative.

This Initiative is documenting First Nations’ insights on wildfire policy for the use of PAGC member Nations.

A major goal of this Initiative is to train First Nations Youth to ensure future generations can respond to wildfires in their territories and areas of interest in ways that respect First Nations laws and governance.

Youth are hired as researchers and trained to conduct interviews that follow and respect Nation-specific protocols for the documentation and storage of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge.

The Youth are engaging with First Nations firefighters, Elders, traditional land users and post-secondary scholars from their communities to organize land-based activities related to wildfire, including Indigenous-led fire practices.

Ultimately, the creation of the Task Force supports a whole-of-society approach to First Nations wildfire governance. This approach includes lobbying, training future generations and documenting Indigenous Ecological Knowledge so that First Nations in northern Saskatchewan may exert their expertise and sovereignty through, against and beyond colonial wildfire management systems.