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How Indigenous Nations are leading the conservation-based economy – Corporate Knights

May 1, 2023

Sharing Indigenous Elders’ lived experiences through oral Nêhiyaw (Cree) history is at the top of Kevin Lewis’s daily to-do list. Lewis is the founder of the non-profit kâniyâsihk Culture Camps, where land-based teachings on foraging, birch-bark-canoe building and other bushcraft in northeast Saskatchewan’s boreal forest are passed down.

Lewis’s kokum (grandmother) used to tell him that the water was once so pure their ancestors could simply fill their pots and make tea. Now, in the lagoon where he and his kokum would take walks, the water is so polluted “you’ll poison yourself if you take one sip,” he says. The Culture Camps are working to change that.

People start to take on a new responsibility to the land and “become stewards in their own way” once the camp is over, says Lewis, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan with an iyiniw pimatisiwin kiskeyihtamowin – a doctorate in Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

Lewis employs 10 people full-time in a community of 1,600 people. Depending on the season, he can employ another 10 or more. Initiatives like kâniyâsihk preserve Indigenous culture, traditions and languages while boosting local Indigenous economies. Indigenous-owned businesses and projects also tend to protect the lands and waters that they operate on.

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