The natural environment

We, as aboriginal people, are part of the land and water…. We recognize and respect the delicate balance of nature for the total existence of all living things including those […]

We, as aboriginal people, are part of the land and water…. We recognize and respect the delicate balance of nature for the total existence of all living things including those we see physically, and those we don’t. The Creator gave us that understanding and knowledge to visualize the harmonious relationships we have with our lands and water…. Our Elders and Ancestors taught us ways to survive in co-existence with our environment. The Elders taught people how to provide medicine from the natural processes of nature. Once these natural processes are disturbed and denied their natural flow, the aboriginal people of this country are adversely affected…. Taking away the land and water takes away our pride, dignity and ability to survive. – Donald Saunders, York Landing

The Creator put Mother Nature on earth to provide for us. If there are great changes to the [Great Whale] river system something will definitely happen in the future…. With all the changes to Mother Earth, everybody is being affected: human beings, waterfowl, and animals. – John Petagumskum, Whapmagoostui

Everything created on this earth was put in its natural place. The Creator decided where everything, including all plant life, should be…. People have their place in the environment along with the animals. In the time when only Cree and Inuit were out on the land there was nothing to disturb the animals and plants. At that time, everything in the natural world spoke for itself. People were so connected with nature that they knew and read its signs…. The Elders watched and kept track of everything around them. They closely observed the animals in order to predict the weather. – John Petagumskum, Whapmagoostui

As Inuit, we have knowledge about animals vanishing for periods of time. From the Elders, we know… all the sea water mammals including beluga whales are like that. One day there are too many of them so they vanish for a period of time and come back later on. Our Elders… told us, “you don’t give up because one day there will be nothing. The next day there will be something in the same area.” – Simonie Akpik, Lake Harbour

The land was always shared with the animals, and our Ancestors understood their movements very well…. Our people knew where the caribou would winter and where they would stop. It’s the same thing for migrating birds. Our people had a special place for them to eat. They understood the kind of land they needed, and that the birds would give us food supply…. All the hunters and young hunters-to-be were told where to hunt, and where not to hunt. The birds knew where they had a priority, and where they could eat properly and be healthy. Only when the right season arrived did the people hunt them… – Louis Bird, Peawanuck

When we talk about the hunting territory, the person never just thinks of himself. He thinks also of his children and his grandchildren. He thinks about how he will leave this land and what state it will be in when his children and grandchildren get it. He lived off this land… – John Matches, Wemindji

Excerpts from ‘Voices from the Bay, Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Inuit and Cree in the Hudson Bay Bioregion’; compiled by Miriam McDonald, Lucassie Arragutainaq, and Zack Novalinga; published by Canadian Arctic Resources Committee and the Environmental Committee of Municipality of Sanikiluaq; 1997

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