Whitefeather Forest Initiative

Our First Nation


Pikangikum First Nation is located on Pikangikum Lake, approximately 100 km northwest of Red Lake, Ontario. “Pikangikum” is from the Ojibway word – Biikanjikamiing – that refers to how the Berens River flows into Pikangikum Lake on the east, how the lake spreads out from the river on either side, and how the River leaves the lake in the west across from where it comes in.


The current population of Pikangikum First Nation members living in our community is more than 3,000.


The community is currently a remote access community, and is reached:

  • By air with direct flights from Red Lake and Sioux Lookout
  • By road on the Nungessor Road north of Red Lake 95 kilometers to the Berens Landing and by boat from the Nungessor Road into the community (about a 30 km boat ride)
  • By road on the Nungessor Road north of Red Lake 90 kilometers to the controlled access all-weather road (built and operated by Pikangikum) to Taxi Bay and by boat into the community (about a 20km boat ride)
  • In the winter, by winter road north of Red Lake via the Nungessor Road

Community Infrastructure

  • a primary and secondary school run by the Pikangikum Education Authority
  • a day care centre
  • a fully staffed Nursing Station
  • a water treatment facility, run by the First Nation (its staff were the first certified water treatment workers in Northwestern Ontario)
  • a Northern Store
  • an arena
  • an airport with a 3500 ft gravel runway

Community Enterprises

  • a small business centre housing a hotel, restaurant and other offices
  • Whitefeather Forest Community Resource Management Authority our First Nation owned corporation mandated to develop and manage the Whitefeather Forest Initiative and its related enterprise activities
  • Pikangikum Hotel, a ten room hotel in our community serving the lodging needs of people visiting and working in the small business centre.
  • Eshkotay Wayab, a power authority operated as a business by the First Nation
  • Wasaya Group Inc. in which Pikangikum is one of the twelve full owning communities

Our Culture

Our strength is our Ojibway way of life. Members of our community have been committed to retaining our Ojibway way of doing things as we adapt to ever changing circumstances in the world around us. This has enabled us to approach our challenges with determination and confidence.

Our Language

We cherish our language – our community has almost a 100 % retention rate of Ojibway fluency. Most of our children still come to kindergarten as unilingual Ojibway speakers. This has meant that our youngest members still learn easily from our Esteemed Elders.

We see the threats to our language and are determined to protect it. Ojibway language is used as a language of instruction in our secondary and elementary school in classrooms where Pikangikum members are the teachers. We are training our own community members as teachers to enable continued instruction in Ojibway.

As well, we are planning for an Indigenous Knowledge Teaching Centre within the Whitefeather Forest where our children and others, including First Nations and non-aboriginal students from other communities, will be able to learn about our land directly from our Elders. All of this will be rooted in our Ojibway language.

Ojibway is the language of work in Pikangikum. To continue in this tradition, all of the community knowledge guiding the Whitefeather Forest Initiative is being documented in the Ojibway language.

Our Land

We cherish our relationship to our Traditional Territories that we have occupied since time immemorial. A majority of our community members still derive a significant portion of their domestic and livelihood needs from the forest and spend a significant portion of the year living on the land, outside the community.

They engage in land based livelihood activities – hunting, trapping, and gathering. This has meant that the cycle of being on the land and learning how to protect and enhance abundance on the land is still something that we are able to draw upon.

How We Govern Ourselves

We have a Chief, a Deputy Chief and nine First Nation Councillors at Pikangikum. Our Chief and Council receive their mandate from the people through custom elections. They are supported by customary community decision-making processes open to the larger community including our Community Assembly process (Onaashowaywinaniwung). The Ojibway word for our Councillors (Onaashowaywininiwug) derives from the word for our Assemblies and means that our Councillors speak what is decided in Assembly. In these customary Assemblies, our First Nation meets as a whole to deliberate upon significant issues.

The wisdom of Esteemed Elders (Kitchi’ aa aayug) carries great weight in all of our decision-making. Our former Chief Louie Quill called them the “decision-makers” of our First Nation. Our Whitefeather Forest Community Resource Management Authority President, Alex Peters, calls them his “capacity”.

Consensus-based participatory decision-making is highly prized by our people. We are bringing our customary decision-making process, and especially our Elders, into our dealings with the outside world wherever we go. This is our best resource to build consensus through dialogue with people from the outside who have an interest in our Traditional Territories. Our record of building consensus rather than conflict has been acknowledged by all of our partners in the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.

Contact Information

  • Pikangikum Chief and Council
    Chief Dean Owen
    Pikangikum First Nation
    Pikangikum, Ontario P0V 2L0
    Phone: 807-773-5578
    Fax: 807-773-5536
  • Pikangikum Hotel
    Pikangikum, Ontario P0V 2L0
    Phone: 807-773-1039
    Fax: 807-773-1070

Photo Gallery

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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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Keeping the Land
A Land Use Strategy for the Whitefeather... Read More »

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