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The Atikamekw of Obedjiwan receive significant support in fight to protect ancestral lands

by pmnationtalk on March 2, 2018427 Views

OBEDJIWAN, QC, March 1, 2018  – As part of its ongoing efforts to provide greater protection for their ancestral lands, the Atikamekw community of Obedjiwan recently welcomed representatives from the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) to visit their territory. The visit, which took place February 20 through the 23, had as an objective to facilitate a dialogue between both parties and establish a strong foundation for future collaboration.

Invited on site by the Chief of the Council of the Atikamekw of ObedjiwanChristian Awashish, NRDC representatives spent three days in the community, discovering the Atikamekw culture and gaining a better understanding of the unique relationship that exists between band members and their territory’s flora and fauna. Also discussed during the visit was the Quebec Government’s territorial development model that has been applied to the region. To date, this model has only worked to disrupt the forest’s delicate balance and jeopardize the long-term sustainability of the Atikamekw’s ancestral and subsistence activities.

The NRDC took advantage of the visit to collect field data in order to conduct a number of analyses in the hope to better understand how the band uses their territory’s forest resources and the subsequent environmental impacts this has had on the preservation of the boreal forest.  More specifically, the researchers sought to better understand the effect that natural resource exploitation by private companies has had on Aboriginal rights, as well as governments’ mechanisms for granting logging permit authorizations without prior or informed consent.

“The fact that an internationally recognized organization like the NRDC is interested in our case demonstrates our territory’s ecological value and substantiates our ongoing efforts to protect our land.  For some time now we have worked diligently to assert our ancestral rights on this territory and promote the healthy exploitation of forest resources that is in harmony with our traditional values,” said Christian Awashish, Chief of the Atikamekw Council of Obedjiwan. “The legal support, international visibility and scientific resources provided by the NRDC are major assets in our struggle to defend the rights of Atikamekw families and the territory they occupy. It was truly a pleasure to welcome the NRDC representatives on our territory.”

Working to safeguard the natural environment and defend the rights of the People to enjoy a better environment, the NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and activists around the world with the expertise of some 500 scientists, experts and lawyers. With the strength of its network, the Natural Resources Defense Council will work in the future to support the efforts of the Atikamekw Council of Opitciwan, for the protection of ancestral territory, land claims and the fight against climate change.

“NRDC is touched by the warm welcome we received from the Obedjiwan community. The inspiring stories we heard about the Atikamekw’s efforts to safeguard their way of life in the face of unsustainable logging showed how important it is for the future to be defined by Indigenous-led stewardship. We are grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many members of the community, and look forward to working together with the Atikamekw to promote sustainable resource use on their territory and sharing with others their leadership to protect the boreal forest for future generations,” said Anthony Swift, Canada Project Director, Natural Resources Defense Council.

For further information: Eric Duguay, eduguay@national.ca, 514-843-2325

NT5

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