(Darwin, Australia, May 27, 2013) As a keynote speaker at the inaugural meeting of the World Indigenous Network, Ashley Iserhoff, Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) shared the Crees Nation’s experience of land stewardship and governance in Northern Québec with an international audience of Indigenous youth, elders and leaders. The World Indigenous Network is being developed as means for indigenous peoples to share their experience in land and sea stewardship.
Speaking upon invitation from the Australian Government, who is a key partner and host in the launch of World Indigenous Network, the Deputy Grand Chief’s presentation drew upon the Crees long history of care and management of their land, Eeyou Istchee, in the context of their emerging role in governance. This history included the Crees’ opposition of hydroelectric development, and more recently, the Crees’ successful request for a moratorium on uranium mining.
Of particular focus was the Cree Nation’s recent launch of the Broadback Watershed Conservation Plan. The Deputy Grand Chief explained to conference delegates how the Broadback River is under threat from forestry, and mining development and the negative impact that this is having on the Cree way of life and on the endangered woodland caribou. Mr. Iserhoff used the Broadback Watershed Conservation Plan to illustrate the Crees’ long-term protection strategy for Eeyou Istchee as an expression of their commitment to being responsible stewards of their lands.
“The Broadback Watershed Conservation Plan represents an ideal opportunity for the Crees and Québec to work together to achieve the international protection objective under the Aichi biodiversity targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity”, expressed Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff.
In parallel, the Deputy Grand Chief highlighted the advances in self-governance through the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, the Paix des Braves Agreement, and last year’s agreement with Québec on regional governance. As Mr. Iserhoff described:
“It is no surprise that the healthiest, most intact ecosystems, are most often found in areas where indigenous peoples continue to be able to subsist and thrive off the resources of their lands. Not surprisingly these Indigenous communities most often have greater autonomy over their lands and can affectively exert their vision of stewardship.”
Launched as an initiative of Rio+20, the goal of the World Indigenous Network Conference in Darwin, is to create an international network where indigenous peoples, governments, and researchers can come together and share their knowledge and experience with land and sea management.