Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat (AAS)

Working Together: Our Stories

Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Aboriginal Engagement

Conclusion

Parks Canada values the unique partnerships it has created with Aboriginal peoples in the last decades. Working closely with these Aboriginal partners help us make better decisions on how to protect, present and connect with our natural and cultural environments. Working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to manage national parks, national historic sites and marine conservation areas to present Aboriginal cultures also greatly enriches visitor experiences in our heritage places.

Winter lights at Elk Island National Park of Canada Winter lights at Elk Island National Park of Canada
© Parks Canada / Alan Dyer

Throughout the country, new relationships are being forged and old ones are being celebrated. Cooperative management with Aboriginal peoples has become a common practice within Parks Canada and members of these committees work jointly with us to make important decisions related to the planning and operation of the park. These relationships lead us to greater collaboration and understanding of our mutual interests, helping us to work on specific projects that bring about reconciliation and reconnection.

Quote: "Parks space are almost always situated in a place that was special to the Aboriginal peoples and while learning in a classroom has its merits nothing can replace experiential learning in a place that is/was special to not just Aboriginal people but, all the people of Canada. To see Elders, Youth and those between interacting, learning and teaching side by side with Parks left me an unforgettable image and hope for the future of our special places." - Fred Johnstone, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon
Protecting our heritage

Aboriginal peoples are unique partners in the protection of natural and cultural resources; from ways to conserve totem poles in British Columbia and species of fish in Atlantic Canada to removing vegetation and identifying gravesites in an ancestral cemetery in northern Alberta. Everyone has something to contribute, whether it’s knowledge of medicinal plants in Atlantic Canada, expertise to harvest White-Tailed Deer to help restore ecological balance in Ontario, Inuit Knowledge that improves Parks Canada’s monitoring and understanding of vast and remote Nunavut parks amid a changing environment, or oral history that can contribute to the acknowledgment of the importance of an historic Aboriginal figure.

Enhancing the visitor experience
Base Camp at night Base Camp at night
© Parks Canada / Caitlyn Baikie

Presenting the cultures of Aboriginal peoples to some 22 million visitors to Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas each year greatly enhances visitor experiences. Opportunities to share the stories and cultures of Aboriginal peoples take many forms including exhibits, interpretive panels and hands-on experiences. At the kANGIDLUASUk Base Camp in Torngat Mountains National Park of Canada on the Labrador Peninsula and during the Port au Choix National Historic Site of Canada’s Artist in Residence pilot project, visitors had a chance to connect with the Inuit cultures through the stories the people shared. In York Factory National Historic Site of Canada, the Cree are reconnecting with a place that has strong ties to their heritage and past, and in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada, a twenty-five year old dream of creating a welcome centre where young and old can come together is finally coming true.

Métis sash. Batoche National Historic Site of Canada Métis sash. Batoche National Historic Site of Canada.
© Parks Canada

This sharing helps keep First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, traditions and languages alive while giving parks visitors an appreciation and understanding of their rich history. Partnerships are rewarding and they allow us to share our collective knowledge, experience, strengths and resources. But the first step toward working together is to build relationships based on mutual respect and trust. That takes time, patience, flexibility and an open mind to new ideas and possibilities.

Involving Aboriginal groups at the beginning of any process give all involved an opportunity to participate in how a site is presented and protected and how stories are told. Aboriginal peoples will feel more engaged with Parks Canada and the desire to be involved will continue to grow over time.

Working successfully together helps strengthen relationships which, in turn, strengthen Parks Canada and its ability to preserve, protect and present its sites for Canadians and international visitors for generations to come.

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