Whitefeather Forest Initiative

UNESCO World Heritage Site Project

Manomin planted in the Whitefeather Forest by the late Moses Keeper

Manomin planted in the Whitefeather Forest by the late Moses Keeper

Early on in the Whitefeather Forest Initiative planning process Pikangikum Elders considered how they might be able to secure livelihood from areas in the Whitefeather Forest that would be excluded from commercial forestry, minerals and hydroelectric development and set aside as Cheemuhnuhcheecheekuhtaykeen (Dedicated Protected Areas) through an innovative, culturally appropriate partnership with Ontario.  This consideration took place in light of the historical experience of the Elders in relation to park development. The Elders considered various designations that could increase the potential to celebrate and benefit from the relationships of Pikangikum people to the Whitefeather Forest.  Our Elders were especially keen to support celebrating generations of work on the land to nurture resource abundance and diversity by Pikangikum people such as the propagation of Manomin (wild rice).

As a result of their deliberations our Elders embraced a strategy to initiate and pursue a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation with Whitefeather Forest Cheemuhnuhcheecheekuhtaykeen.   Understanding that a designation at a larger scale could increase the potential of achieving UNESCO designation, our Elders then guided us as we went downstream to our First Nation relatives and neighbours to ask them if they were interested in such a project. The Elders then guided the dialogue about this opportunity with our neighbouring First Nations.

At a ceremony held in Pikangikum in April 2002 our First Nation signed an Accord with three other First Nations – Little Grand Rapids First Nation, Pauingassi First Nation and Poplar River First Nation – to guide our partnership to pursue World Heritage Site designation. Whitefeather Forest Management Corporation sponsored the development and drafting of the Accord. This partnership grew to include the Governments of Ontario and Manitoba. Our participation in the larger partnership continues to be guided by our Elders.

In April of 2004 the Government of Canada placed our partnership Planning Area on its Updated Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.  The partnership involved subsequently named the project, Pimachiowin Aki, and created a non-profit corporation to coordinate the effort to achieve World Heritage designation.

Regrettably, subsequent developments necessitated the withdrawal of Pikangikum First Nation from the project and the partnership. This followed urgent deliberations in Pikangikum after the public release of documents in the UNESCO World Heritage web site.


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

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