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A new short film highlights the importance of Indigenous-led conservation and how youth from two different communities — Fox Lake Cree Nation in northern Manitoba and Kivalliq Inuit from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut — are coming together to ensure that tradition continues.
Although they are different peoples and cultures and separated by nearly 500 miles, both communities share the abundant coastal and upstream environments of Western Hudson Bay. This region in the Canadian Arctic and subarctic hosts some of the world’s greatest migrations of marine mammals and birds, as well as a resident population of polar bears. Both communities continue to harvest from the land and waters and have a mutual interest in protecting their well-being, which is at risk from climate change and industrial activity.
The youth exchange program
To help create a foundation for a shared vision for the region, the leadership of the communities organized a youth exchange that took place in August of 2023. Inuit youth and knowledge holders from the Kivalliq region visited Cree communities south of Churchill, Manitoba, followed by Cree youth visiting the Kivalliq region.
The idea was to create opportunities for cross-cultural learning, exchange of knowledge, and connections that previously didn’t exist. It was also a chance to inform youth and elders about the opportunities presented by the establishment of Indigenous-led protected areas.
Oceans North’s work
Oceans North, a grantee of the Moore Foundation, supports marine conservation and climate action in partnership with with Indigenous and coastal communities and helped facilitate the youth exchange. Oceans North has been working in Western Hudson Bay since 2012; over the last 10 years, they and their partners have conducted important scientific research and developed partnerships and programs with Inuit, Dene, and Cree communities who rely on the bay’s continued abundance. Oceans North is dedicated to supporting an Indigenous-led vision for the region’s future.
“Indigenous-led conservation is based on the understanding that the traditional stewards of the land are in the best place to manage it,” said Paul Labun, director of program development at Oceans North.
“For thousands of years, they have cared for the land, adapting to changes and learning how to survive by developing sustainable practices that continue today. In the face of climate change, these communities’ deep connection to their ecosystems presents a way toward a healthy future.”
The first year of the youth exchange is just the beginning, Labun explained. The shared goal with their partners is to create a strong foundation for a legacy youth program that will bring communities and peoples together. There is a shared interest in this exchange growing into a possibly annual regional youth program. Youth could gather next year in Churchill, Manitoba to build on that proposal. Churchill is a natural (and historic) meeting place and the epicenter of a potential National Marine Conservation Area in Western Hudson Bay. Such a designation could help protect this important ecosystem while providing opportunities and benefits to the people who live nearby.
“Western Hudson Bay is a complex, interconnected web of rivers, coasts and ocean,” Labun said. “To manage it properly, the people who rely on it need to be connected, too. We hope that bringing together the next generation of leaders from these communities will help make that a reality.”
The Moore Foundation’s Marine Conservation Initiative is grateful to have the opportunity to support Oceans North’s engagement in Western Hudson Bay.
This film was produced for the Moore Foundation by BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions (the commercial content division of BBC Global News). It is part of The Climate and Us, a series that looks at the global race against the climate crisis, including the resilient communities that are adapting to our warming world, the interconnectedness of humanity and the climate crisis, what it means for our health, and some of the “win-win” solutions working towards healing people and the planet.