Whitefeather Forest Initiative

Our Stewardship Vision

Keeping the land means to receive a gift, our livelihood, the way we have lived on the land. The land helped us to be very active… I remember one day we were cutting firewood and I was looking at the trees. I just looked at those trees; every tree was created differently, so beautiful. Each one was created in its own unique way. This is why we were taught to keep the land, why we started this Initiative. Let’s hold onto these gifts from the Creator. We have been richly blessed; especially the land where everything that we have been blessed with is found.
Elder Ellen Peters (in translation)

Our Elders teach us how important it is for Pikangikum First Nation people to continue to cherish our lands and all living ones – paymahteeseewahch – by following the customs we have been taught. We must continue to carry out our responsibilities of Keeping the Land – Cheekahnahwaydahmunk Keetahkeemeenahn. Keeping the Land embodies our tradition of how we live in the Whitefeather Forest.

The trees and plants, the animals and fish, and all of the living ones in the Whitefeather Forest have been made by the Creator. They are precious. The Creator has given the people of Pikangikum these resources of the Whitefeather Forest for our survival. They are for us to harvest for our livelihoods.

Our Elders direct that it is important for us to show respect for all our fellow living ones in the Whitefeather Forest. We are to do this following our customary ways. This is part of a living tradition that stretches back to ancient times.

Our Elders say that we must continue to hunt animals in order to show them respect. If we do not show them respect by hunting them and using what they give us for our livelihood and survival, the animals will go away. We must find ways to continue to live in the Whitefeather Forest today so that this practice of respect for the land can continue.

When we used to work our traplines and harvest an abundance the animals would return again. This was the Creator’s way of looking favourably upon us. But now don’t harvest so many caribou and there is no increase in their numbers, only a decline. I often think when the Creator looked favourably on us we were given a good harvest. Why should the Creator give us more caribou when we don’t harvest so much anymore?
Elder Solomon Turtle (in translation)

Our Elders say we must show respect for all living ones in the way we harvest from the land. For example, we are taught to regulate our harvest in a way that ensures the living ones will continue to thrive. Sometimes this gets translated as taking only what we need from the land. At other times this gets translated as making sure we leave enough of the living ones so they can reproduce. We are also taught to respect all living ones by making use of everything we harvest from them. Nothing is to be hoarded and nothing is to be wasted. This approach is guiding our planning for new economic activities in the Whitefeather Forest.

My grand father, Neekeekohneenee, taught to me about the traditional process we should always remember: cheewahkwahkuhnuhwahch. This means that if you are hunting three animals you will let one live, let that one continue to make its tracks on the earth. That way you will always leave animals on the earth, for them to continue on.
Elder Jake P. Quill (in translation)

We don’t want the term cheemahnahcheetooyaun to be misunderstood as wanting to keep something because it is valuable to you. It will just sit there and sit there like something valuable in your living room. We want to work with the animals and benefit from what is on the land.
Elder Matthew Strang (in translation)

Interest in our stewardship vision for the Whitefeather Forest Initiative is international in scope. For example, the Swiss organization Economic Development for Amerindians has created an information clearing-house web site on aboriginal economic issues which includes information on the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.

We are networking with organizations like EDAI to promote understanding of indigenous approaches to economic, cultural well-being, and stewardship of the land. These networks also help us to expand our business linkages and partnerships.


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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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This new version of this web site has been generously supported with contributions from Industry Canada, FedNor and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Kitchi Miigwetch!
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