Whitefeather Forest Initiative

News Archive

Student Achievements Celebrated

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
Student achievement celebrated

Community Facilitator Timmy K Strang and students Murray Quill, Max King and Warren Keeper with Elder Lucy Strang, whose vision inspired the Indigenous Knowledge Curriculum Project

On December 17, 2013 the Whitefeather Forest Initiative Steering Group of Elders hosted a feast to celebrate the milestone success of students from Pikangikum who completed studies for future careers in resource stewardship.  Visitors, including guests from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources also joined in the feast with the Chief of Pikangikum, Paddy Peters.  They gathered with other visitors, including from Sweden, to celebration the achievement of the students and Elders and to look to future economic renewal supported by the Keeping the Land stewardship tradition of the First Nation that is embodied by the Elders.

The celebration marked the successful conclusion of a project to integrate the rich Indigenous Knowledge tradition held by the Elders with the Forest Ecosystem Management program of Confederation College.  The Whitefeather Forest Indigenous Knowledge curriculum project was made possible through the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Pikangikum First Nation, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.  Five students from Pikangikum have now completed their College diploma studies and co-op work placement in a learning setting that was enriched by the wisdom of the Elders and other bush experts from Pikangikum.

This milestone achievement of five students from one First Nation simultaneously completing the Forest Ecosystem Management diploma program and integrating the Indigenous Knowledge tradition of the community marked the completion of the first step of realizing the educational vision of Pikangikum Elders for the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.  This vision was first articulated by Elder Lucy Strang and her sister, the late Elder Ellen Peters.  The vision, embraced by all of the Elders of the Whitefeather Forest Initiative Steering Group, is one where two knowledge traditions are brought together in balance and harmony.  Over the years, Elder Lucy has stated many times that the full richness of the knowledge and stewardship tradition of her people should continue to guide new land-based economic renewal opportunities, including in indigenous-led forestry and tourism.   This rich tradition can be strengthened by the best of western science through an approach of balance.  Community-based delivery of the diploma program is what allowed the integration of Indigenous Knowledge of Pikangikum people specific to the ancestral lands.

Five students have now completed the classroom and co-op components of the Forest Ecosystem Management program. During program delivery they were able to learn about resource management from both the College Instructors, and from their own Elders and other bush experts.  The potential of Elders including Matthew Strang and Kitchi Jake Quill having taught the students subjects such as customary indigenous prescribed burning as a resource management tool, cannot be underestimated in the future management of forestry in the context of the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.   The Elders are determined that their forest will be sustained as an indigenous cultural landscape in the future just as they have kept and nurtured the gifts of the land that were given to their ancestors by the Creator.

Student achievements celebrated

Student Valerie King with Elders Martha and George M. Suggashie at the feast

Congratulations were given to the to the students at the feast – Murray Quill, Darrell Keeper, Valerie King, Warren Keeper and Max King – who persevered and completed their program. Head Trapper Timmy K. Strang was also honoured for his critical support to the diploma program and Indigenous Knowledge Curriculum project.  Where else could Forest Ecoystem Management students have been able to combine learning in the areas of landscape ecology, animal biology, bush safety and navigation on the land in the context of killing and butchering a moose and helping to feed Pikangikum people?  Timmy K. Strang made all of this possible and more in his role as Community Facilitator for the project.   Doug Gilmore from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources presented a plaque to Timmy in recognition of this work.

The feast was also the opportunity to congratulate all the Elders and other bush experts, who gave of their time and knowledge to ensure that the students’ education included the Pikangikum customary resource management tradition.  The Whitefeather Forest Initiative is now ready to move on in realizing the vision of Elder Lucy Strang for her forest-based teaching centre which will support future learning of Pikangikum people and others from around the world.

Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

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 ( 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.” (

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.

For more information about this and any other news stories, contact us.

Fire in the Whitefeather Forest

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

The rich cultural relationship between Pikangikum First Nation people and fire in the Whitefeather Forest will soon be on display at the Red Lake Heritage Centre. Art and research are being brought together to celebrate this relationship.

The display will feature paintings created by the gifted young Ojibway artist from Pikangikum, Mario Peters. His paintings will highlight knowledge and teachings about fire from the rich Indigenous Knowledge tradition and the Keeping the Land stewardship tradition of Pikangikum people. This information has been brought together through the collaborative documentation efforts of Pikangikum Elders, Head Trappers, and other community members renowned for their knowledge of the Whitefeather Forest. They have been working with a PhD student from the University of Manitoba, Andy Miller.

Peeshaskoosaywahseegay – Burning the dead grass in the early spring
along creeks and marshes
Geeminozahgeegink – for the land to grow beautifully

Fire has been an important feature of life for Pikangikum people in the Whitefeather Forest for countless generations. As Elder Whitehead Moose from Pikangikum has noted, stories about the fire and the Whitefeather Forest have been passed on among Pikangikum people since forests were placed on the land and the ancestors of Pikangikum people placed in those forests by the Creator.

Until now, much of the cultural tradition of Pikangikum people related to fire has remained largely invisible to the larger world. The display at the Red Lake Heritage Centre will feature not only how Pikangikum people have lived with fire in the Whitefeather Forest and not only how fire has provided them with heat with which to stay warm and cook, but how they have also used fire as a landscape management tool to enrich the diversity and abundance of life in the Whitefeather Forest. Pikangikum Elders and other Indigenous Knowledge experts from the community believe that their knowledge of fire will support Forest Management Planning in the Whitefeather Forest that incorporates their Keeping the Land stewardship approach.

Posted: September 15, 2008.

For more information about this and any other news stories, contact us.

The Whitefeather Forest lies within ancestral lands of the people of Pikangikum First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.

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