Repair, Renewal, Right Now
Across Canada, Indigenous Nations are becoming the authors of their own future. Leaning on their deep connection to the earth has helped form a natural alliance with non-profit, conservation-based organizations to restore their traditional lands much closer to what they used to be. This repair to damaged lands, or “ecological reconciliation,” can only move forward ethically and honestly with the full involvement of the people on whose land the work is happening on. In Alberta, Swan River First Nation (SRFN) is taking the lead.
As SRFN moves into substantive decision-making roles, ideas and support from multiple change-makers are helping to form a collaborative, measurable and meaningful plan of action. Welcome to year one: this is the Ecological Reconciliation Planting Project.
Taking the initial steps of this unprecedented project, we acknowledge the SRFN land should’ve never been damaged in the first place. When the reserve system was created, the government required clearing as much as 50% of forested land for agriculture. Oftentimes, there simply weren’t enough nutrients for a good crop. SRFN was no different: once a productive, rich and food-bearing ecosystem that served its hunters and gatherers well, the cleared land was nearly lifeless. Today, this hay land still sits stagnant, with no benefit to its people. The destruction of the forested land instigated more damage than we can repair—residential schools and the removal of a sacred way of life. But still, we must start somewhere. And that somewhere is the soil.
The Ecological Reconciliation Planting Project
TreesC02 (a non-profit led by two amazing women in high school working to inspire the world to plant trees) has just exceeded their goal of raising $5,000. This will help Project Forest plant over 56,000 seedlings on 40 hectares of marginal hay land within the boundaries of SRFN. Under the umbrella of the Canadian Government’s 2 Billion Tree Program—a pledge to plant that many trees in ten years—the entire project (pending government approval), will see every sponsor dollar matched. We’re counting on it to bring the SRFN forest back again.
Your individual donation will ensure Project Forest and SRFN can begin to plant the forest: visit the TreesC02 GoFundMe now.
As the trees, shrubs and plants grow, the re-emerging forest will create habitat as well as foods and medicines. It will not only provide equal resource teaching that combines both Indigenous and Western engagement within the community of SRFN, but also more importantly, allows SRFN’s people to reawaken their connections to Mother Earth. This includes opportunities to live off the land, passing on the knowledge of their elders to their youth, and interacting with the earth in sacred ways that the community hasn’t been able to revisit for generations.
Of course, planting a forest isn’t one and done. As it grows taller and richer, we are committed to tending the land to ensure survival, health and maturity. Project Forest staff and SRFN community members will monitor, facilitate surveys, and overall treat the work like a reforestation project. Except this time, it’s about nature-based strategies and solutions.
The Ecological Reconciliation Planting Project project is about trees. And it’s not about trees at all. Together, people have the moments and the means to change lives. That’s exactly why Project Forest is fully invested—excited, taking diligent notes to document the process, and thinking about the ways a project of this magnitude can be shared across the province and Canada to benefit as many First Nations Communities as possible.
Your Business Can Fund the Forever Forest
Seedlings signify the beginning of more. Because this project rests on a dollar-matching platform, we need the corporate community to come together to complete the important work. There is a lot of room for support in 40 hectares!
If you’re a business or corporation, this is an opportunity to contribute to this valuable work. Plant trees with your corporate team and Project Forest and get dirty for the day. Or, set aside a few dollars to be matched. How about both? It doesn’t matter how you get involved—only that you make an impact.