What is Governance?

2022: A safety briefing during We are Fire Camp 1 in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

2022: A safety briefing during We are Fire Camp 1 in the Saskatchewan River Delta.

At its core, fire stewardship[1] is about governance through a balanced and mutually respectful application of Indigenous-led fire practices and settler and state-led fire management.

What is governance?

Governance is “a process whereby societies or organizations make their important decisions, determine whom they involve in the process and how they render account.”[2]

The system or framework of governance is “the agreements, procedures, conventions or policies that define who gets [authority], how decisions are taken and how accountability is rendered.”[3]

Principles of governance can be applied to any group—from communities and not-for-profit organizations to the United Nations. So, the scope of governance can vary widely from local to global collectives.

Governance involves making and acting upon decisions on behalf of a group, community or organization.

Many Indigenous communities have their own laws and governance structures that are often comprised of sacred law (e.g., origin stories); natural law (relationships to place, land and broader natural world); deliberative law (e.g., talking circles, council meetings, gatherings); positivistic law (e.g., teachings, protocols); and customary laws (e.g., family relationships, land claim agreements).[4]

Consider the following reflection questions about governance when returning, continuing, expanding or supporting Indigenous-led fire practices on the land in your community, region or jurisdiction:

  • Who makes decisions?
  • What is the decision-making process?
  • Who has a voice in decision-making?
  • How are decision-makers held accountable?

Indigenous Peoples are rightsholders NOT stakeholders.

As we mentioned in the “Shared Understandings” section of the Toolkit, from a social justice and human rights perspective, rightsholders are individuals and groups that can make legitimate claim to their treaty rights.

In the spirit of self-determination, Indigenous Peoples have inherent rights and there is a duty to consult Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This duty to consult means governments must recognize Indigenous leadership in decision-making on uses of fire.

We must create processes to empower our Peoples and communities to engage our partners across various orders of government (regional, provincial/territorial and federal levels) in Indigenous-led uses of fire. For our partners, this means working in a mutually respectful way to explore effective Indigenous-led fire practices and related decision-making models.

In June 2021, Cumberland House Cree Nation Chief Rene Chaboyer affirmed the Nation’s sovereignty over the Saskatchewan River Delta, advocating for greater ecological and economic authority over the region.

Consider reading the following article that highlights the formal nation-to-nation relationship between the Cumberland House Cree Nation and Métis-Nation Saskatchewan: Cumberland House Cree Nation, Métis Nation-Sask. Formalize Relationship

[1]Marks-Block, T., & Tripp, W. (2021). Facilitating prescribed fire in northern California through Indigenous Governance and interagency partnerships. Fire, 4(3), 37. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/fire4030037

[2]Graham, J., Amos, B., & Plumptre, T. (2003). Principles for good governance in the 21st century (Policy brief no. 15). Institute on Governance, p. 1.