Two representatives from the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project attended the 32nd Session of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Committee that was held in Quebec City in early July, 2008 (http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/32COM/). Alex Peters attended as Co-Chair of the Pimachiowin Aki Assembly of Partners and Gord Jones attended as Project Manager for the partnership.
The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project is rooted in a partnership that includes Pikangikum First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, Pauingassi First Nation and Poplar River First Nation as well as the Governments of Manitoba and Ontario. The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project Area is an Ojibway cultural landscape and encompasses approximately 40,000 square kilometers and includes ancestral lands of the four First Nations, as well as Woodland Caribou Signature Site in Ontario and Atikaki Provincial Park in Manitoba.
The Pimachiowin Aki partners are working to achieve World Heritage designation for an Ojibway cultural landscape that will straddle the Ontario-Manitoba boundary. Designation will support exciting new opportunities including in indigenous eco-cultural tourism.
The Pimachiowin Aki area was added to Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites when the list was updated in 2004. Here is what the federal Minister of the Environment said about the area when the updated list was announced: “These places are of outstanding universal value to all humankind and reflect our human creative genius. They are of exceptional cultural or natural significance.” (http://pc.gc.ca./apps/cp-nr/release_e.asp?id=791&andor1=nr)
The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site would celebrate the magnificent beauty of the northern forest as well as how this forest has supported the livelihoods of First Nation people for countless generations up to the present time. The site would also celebrate the customary resource stewardship traditions of the First Nations. For example, in bringing Manomin to the Whitefeather Forest years ago, the ancestors of Pikangikum people who are alive today nurtured the ecological abundance and diversity of the forest in harmony with the gifts that the Creator gave them. This legacy continues to this day.
It is this legacy – a legacy that also includes numerous pictographs, thousands of kilometers of summer travel routes (inaa onaanan) and winter travel routes (biboonimiikanaa) as well as beautiful lakes, rivers and vast northern forests which has drawn international attention to the Pimachiowin Aki area as an indigenous cultural landscape. Central to the partnership is bringing together the indigenous legacy of caring for the land into a strong cross-cultural collaboration with the resource management achievements and traditions of Manitoba and Ontario. Working together and building consensus to strengthen contemporary resource stewardship are key features of the cross-cultural partnership for the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project. They are the foundation of the partnership.
The Pimachiowin Aki representatives attended the 32nd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to learn more about the work of the Committee. This knowledge will help Pimachiowin Aki put forward the strongest possible case for World Heritage status for lands within the Project area.
The work of the partnership is already building on a strong foundation. This is how it was expressed in report of the World Heritage Boreal Zone Workshop that was held in St. Petersburg, Russia in October, 2003: “This site is also internationally significant because of the planned integration of traditional and western ecological knowledge for land management and protection. The agreement between the First Nations in whose traditional territory this site is located is precedent setting.”
Posted: September 15, 2008.
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The Whitefeather Forest lies within ancestral lands of the people of Pikangikum First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.