Bio-Cultural Symposium crosses oceans for ecology

Nearly 30 provincial environmental and Aboriginal community stakeholders gathered at AITF Edmonton on July 13 to discuss approaches for supporting Aboriginal communities in environmental monitoring, drawing on the communities’ own traditional knowledge backed by provincial expertise.

Keynote speeches, networking, and even a traditional dance performance were included on the agenda.

“The symposium is an important step forward for AITF and our province,” says Scott Heckbert, AITF Environmental Economist. “By bringing in multiple stakeholder groups, we can most effectively deliver on our mandate and find success through collaboration.”

The symposium comes on the heels of Premier Rachel Notley’s recent letter to Ministers that outlined her expectations for a renewed and improved relationship with indigenous peoples. Notley’s call highlighted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its call on governments to celebrate and preserve indigenous cultures and traditions, and to work alongside indigenous people to ensure they are participating in decisions that concern them.

AITF places a strong focus on providing economic and social benefits to Alberta through research and innovation. The Bio-Cultural Monitoring Symposium demonstrates how the Alberta Innovation System supports these achievements by engaging local people, including Aboriginals, while working with our provincial research talent. Tracy Howlett from the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) brought additional provincial representation to the symposium.

See some of the highlights below.

Samson Cree Nation Elder Brian Lightning opened the symposium by asking for a blessing from the Creator in his mother tongue, Cree.

Special guests Glen MacLaren (top) and Troy Mallie (bottom) from Environmental Systems Solutions (Australia) gave an overview of Aboriginal and environmental issues in their country. Troy belongs to the Queensland-based Kuku Yalanji tribe. Using his native language, Troy expressed his thanks for the invitation to participate in the symposium.

Samson Cree Band Councillor and former Chief Marvin Yellowbird (left) and Dance Group Organizer Shellie Yellowbird (right) were pleased to introduce the band’s dancers, who had just participated in a competition the night before at a Pow Wow in Enoch, Alberta. The dancers hail from Samson and as far away as California. They are actively competing in a Pow Wow tour.

The drum circle roared, as the dancers lined up to perform.

Onlookers were surprised to find out that they too would be a part of the celebration! The dancers encouraged spectators to join in a circle for the friendship dance.

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