President's Message - February 01, 2023

February 1, 2023

It is important to preserve our Ancestors' traditions, not only because our culture and heritage are precious to us, but also because the wisdom of our Ancestors and Elders help us act as good stewards of the land and water around us. Stewardship of our environment doesn't just mean managing resources, it means making good use of everything we harvest. I'm so proud of the progress we are making in reviving many of our traditional ways, including our beading and hide-working arts and the harvesting and preservation of food from the land.

We are also supporting this stewardship through investments in traditional economies, like trapping, through our Red River Métis Fur Company. The practice of trapping helps keep wildlife populations in balance, while having the added benefit of providing some income for our families, especially in the North.

Citizens who still live close to the land, the way our Ancestors did, are very well aware that climate change is real, and that the effects of it are happening right now. Weather patterns are changing, as are the migration behaviours of the wildlife that inhabits our land. Polar bears are being spotted as far south as Gillam, Manitoba. Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate and it is becoming increasingly challenging for those who rely on harvesting wild game to keep their families fed.

The MMF - the National Government of the Red River Métis - is doing everything it can to support the vital work of protecting this land. This is our Homeland, the place where our Nation was born. If we don't care for it and give back to it, we will lose it. This would not be a loss only for our Nation, it would be a loss for all Canadians. Human activity has already caused the destruction of the vast herds of buffalo that used to blanket our Homeland. We can never allow such destruction to take place again.

Taking responsibility for our Homeland

Your Red River Métis Government is actively taking steps to address the changes we are seeing in our environment. Not only are we retrofitting our Home Office to reduce its footprint, we are also planting two million trees and engaging in sustainable harvesting as dictated by our Métis Laws of the Harvest, which helps keep wildlife populations in balance. We are also engaging in land-based training for our Youth, to ensure that they understand the importance of caring for the land and the wildlife that inhabit it.

We are also working to create two Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). One is the Kettle Hills Blueberry Patch, and the other is a habitat in between Caribou River Provincial Park and Wapusk National Park. The first IPCA is located within The Pas and Northwest Regions, and the second is located in the Thompson Region.

IPCAs are areas of land and water in which Indigenous governments are the primary protectors, achieving conservation through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems. They allow for Indigenous peoples to continue to apply traditional values and laws, practice culture and create local Indigenous economies to further benefit future generations.

The principles with which we approach our two IPCAs will be based on Red River Métis traditions, rights, interests, and practices. IPCAs also have an additional purpose, which is to provide the opportunity for reconciliation between our community and settler society, while allowing for the reconnection of all peoples to the lands and waters of our Homeland.

Working together is the only way forward

Rest assured that your Métis Government will continue to work on these important stewardship activities, as well as finding new ways to protect our environment, including the land, water, and wildlife that rely on it.

However, we cannot stop the tide of climate change impacts alone. Caring for our land is a shared responsibility. It cannot be the work of one government, or one Nation in our Homeland.

It is vital that all stakeholders come to the same table and share a collective vision. In order to address climate change and preserve this land for future generations, we must have partnerships with other Indigenous governments and organizations, along with municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Other levels of government must heed the wisdom of our Elders and our Ancestors, and the wisdom of First Nations Elders and Ancestors. An Indigenous Advisory Council, with strong representation from key organizations and governments, would be an ideal place to begin this important dialogue. This council is part of our vision for the future and I can assure you, I will continue to advocate strongly for this council to be formed and supported by other levels of government.

This advisory council is one way in which we can ensure our voices are heard. As Citizens may be aware, the upcoming provincial election will see many seats available, where the previous elected official (sometimes called the incumbent) is not running. This gives our Citizens another opportunity to have our voices heard. That's why I encourage Citizens living in these areas to consider running for election.

Regardless of which party you align with, I know that each of you will also bring your perspective as a Red River Métis Citizen - it's in your blood and your heart. This will help ensure that other levels of government do not forget the importance of environmental stewardship, the role our people play in the process, and the need for a shared vision and approach.

Together, we can honour our Ancestors by preserving the land where our Nation was born, and where generations of Red River Métis have lived and benefited from its bounty. Together, we can leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, ensuring that our traditional ways can be practiced for all the generations to come.

As always, we will continue to gather the wisdom of our Elders through consultation on stewardship, harvesting, and other topics of importance to Citizens. Gathering in person to discuss these matters is also part of our traditions, which is why we always go out to each region to engage our grassroots Locals and Citizens to discuss issues and concerns. This process now includes our Citizens Beyond Borders, who have come home to their Red River Métis Government because they know their voices will be heard.

For those of you who will be at the 76th Annual Trappers Festival, I look forward to seeing you there, as we celebrate and honour our history and our Ancestors while we revive traditional economies like trapping and beadwork. If you are attending this great event, make sure you get your tickets for Métis Family Nite, which takes place on Saturday, February 18 at the MMF Hall in The Pas. This night of musical entertainment is a highlight of the festival, thanks to the energy, effort, and support of our Regional Executive team. Come out and celebrate our great Red River Métis culture and our long association with trapping. You will be treated to a night of fiddle music and dancing, along with a hearty and filling meal, all backed by some incredibly talented performers from our Nation. The tickets for this event sell out quickly, so get yours while you can - and I'll see you there.

Until we meet again, I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.


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