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The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30, is a time to acknowledge the impact of residential schools in Canada on victims, survivors, and their families, and to honour the process of reconciliation. It’s also a time for all parts of society, including those involved in conservation, to renew our own commitment to advancing reconciliation through the work that we do.

On Friday, September 30, Birds Canada offices will be closed. Staff will be engaging in personal reflection and learning and attending local events dedicated to truth and reconciliation.

Birds Canada is committed to deepening our engagement with Indigenous peoples. Building on a decade of collaboration with more than 25 First Nation communities, our team understands that Indigenous voices, knowledge, and ongoing work on the land are critical for wild birds to thrive in sustainable ecosystems. We support the needs, aspirations, and rights of Indigenous peoples to care for the land.  

In our own path toward reconciliation, we have adopted an organizational action plan. We have created a new position, Indigenous Bird Conservation Coordinator, to focus on reconciliation and Indigenous engagement on the Pacific Coast; introduced a meaningful self-paced learning journey for all staff; and are actively exploring ways we can support the Indigenous Guardians network and help advance proposals for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.

 

Surf Scoters Photo: Sean Jenniskens

Indigenous-led conservation 

If you are interested in this topic, we recommend exploring the following resources:

Working with First Nations to monitor and conserve birds on the west coast

By Dr. David Bradley, Director, British Columbia, Birds Canada

Some of the most recent examples of Birds Canada’s increasing level of engagement with Indigenous peoples come from BC. Over the past few years, Birds Canada staff in this province have been striving to improve the way we work with Indigenous peoples so that we can learn how best to recognize the inherent value of, and protect, birds and bird habitat. We have formed partnerships with a number of First Nation communities in BC in order to bring together Indigenous perspectives with a Western science viewpoint to support First Nations in their stewardship activities.

One example has been assisting the Tsleil-Waututh Nation during their waterbird surveys of Indian Arm, where we joined their Guardian Watchmen to observe hundreds of sea ducks that spend the winter in the sheltered inlet. Through this experience, our team learned from the Guardians of the history of waterbirds in the inlet and the cultural importance of these birds to the Tsleil-Waututh, and we shared techniques for species identification and counting large flocks.

Photography workshop Photo: Kris Cu

Also, several Salish Sea communities invited us to share information on the status of waterbirds in their territories. We also conducted some seabird identification sessions with these communities, and boat-based waterbird photography trips to assist with communicating waterbird knowledge within and between communities.

Further afield, we accompanied members of the Homalko Nation to learn about their language and cultural values surrounding waterbirds, and to share our knowledge of birds with them. A bird of particular interest to this community, and to members of the adjacent Tla’amin Nation, is the endangered Marbled Murrelet. We supported a project focused on this species, spearheaded by the Tla’amin Nation within their territory, by providing equipment and training to conduct surveys of the critical habitat. This meaningful partnership has resulted in additional invitations to participate in further knowledge exchanges.

These engagement opportunities and collaborations with communities were made possible by generous support from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Looking forward, we hope that we can continue to work with Indigenous people in the spirit of reconciliation, for the protection of birds and their habitat.

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