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Web Exclusive: The Breathing Lands

Originally published in Alternatives Journal

28 February 2013

THE ELDERS OF KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG (KI) FIRST NATION KNOW that local water flows through their blood, and that their bodies are built of the trout that swim in its clean rivers and lakes. Taking care of their watershed is a sacred responsibility handed down to the KI youth from the Creator through the teachings of their elders.

The KI people have governed and cared for their Indigenous homeland – Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aaki, located about 580 km north of Thunder Bay, Ontario – since time before memory. They share their way of life from one generation to the next. But things are changing rapidly in KI because of climate change, and the elders are struggling to prepare the youth to meet these challenges.

KI’s territory is also rich in minerals and precious metals, attracting mining and exploration companies who try to operate without the “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) of the community.The close connection of the KI people to the land and climate means that disrupted weather patterns hit particularly hard, and unwanted industrial activity would only further jeopardize their traditional way of life. The elders feel that passing on their traditional knowledge to the younger generations is vital to providing them with the tools to adapt to ongoing social and environmental changes. 

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aaki is located in the heart of one of the world’s largest intact forests. For hundreds of kilometers in all directions the forest has never been logged or fragmented, remaining much as it has been since shortly after the glaciers retreated 9,000 years ago. The boreal forest represents the largest carbon storehouse on Earth – a critical buffer against runaway climate change – and also forms part of the planet’s greatest reservoir of freshwater. 

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