Rights and Responsibilities of Indigenous Peoples
The approach of the First Nations Forum to wildlife and habitat stewardship is predicated on Indigenous worldviews including both inherent rights and responsibilities as Indigenous peoples, and the rights and responsibilities that are enshrined in the recognized in the Constitution of Canada, treaties (historic and modern), case law, and government policy. With this in mind First Nations are not ‘stakeholders’ to consultation processes, but rather are decision-makers over matters relating to their homelands and traditional territories.
Indigenous Peoples and their governance systems embody an intrinsic sense of responsibility to effectively steward the lands and wildlife with which they have maintained reciprocal relationships for millennia. Those responsibilities stem from Indigenous worldviews and Indigenous laws. Responsibility implies stewardship and care-taking – making thoughtful, well-considered decisions today so that future generations will be able to enjoy the bounty of the land and healthy relationships with all living things. Many studies support the link between Indigenous Peoples’ lived experience and expert abilities to steward their homelands for diversity and abundance.
Ethical Space. A Collaborative Approach Peoples
The Forum takes an Ethical Space approach to collaboration and cooperation for wildlife and habitat stewardship. The concept of Ethical Space, which is informed by First Nations Forum participants’ perspectives on collaboration, cooperation and communication, is where multiple knowledge systems and multiple layers of jurisdiction co-exist in a co-management framework. Within this framework, the narrative changes to include the aspirations of First Nations members to support B.C.’s shift to co-management with trust and mutual respect. This process provides perspectives on research, monitoring and enforcement, funding and capacity building, and guidance from First Nations Forum participants on how to collaboratively develop objectives for wildlife and habitat conservation.
This approach also encourages decision-makers and stakeholders to collaborate to achieve shared outcomes and foster common respect for the benefit of all. Decision-makers include Indigenous and Crown governments, while examples of stakeholders include private corporations, resident hunters, guide-outfitters, trappers, academia, non-consumptive users, and environmental non- governmental organizations.
A Commitment to Two-eyed Seeing
The incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems – both traditional and modern – into shared decision- making for the development and execution of plans for wildlife and habitat stewardship is essential. Numerous studies and articles have determined the vital importance of applying Indigenous knowledge systems together with Western scientific research for sound policymaking.
Integrating Indigenous knowledge and Western science (known as ‘two-eyed seeing’) into wildlife and habitat stewardship within Ethical Space can build trust and enhance outcomes. The use of both knowledge systems provides the basis for better planning and stewardship approaches and eliminates some of the limitations inherent in Western science, such as compartmentalization and limited time horizons. Fostering a relationship based in two-eyed seeing is an opportunity for the Crown to deepen its understanding of Indigenous laws and legal traditions, which in turn can play a crucial role in successful stewardship of wildlife and habitat conservation/restoration.
A complete description of the perspectives and approach of the First Nations Forum can be found in the document Cultivating Abundance, which provides the background and ongoing context for the Forum’s work.