Visitors able to help protect P.E.I. National Park with Park Promise

People are able to do their part in shared stewardship of Parks Canada spaces on P.E.I. with a new Park Promise poem and activities.

Mi'kmaw knowledge keeper Julie Pellissier-Lush wrote the poem for the Park Promise

Mi'kmaw knowledge keeper Julie Pelissier-Lush reads A Promise to the Park

3 months ago
Parks Canada collaborated with Mi'kmaw knowledge keeper and poet laureate of P.E.I. Julie Pelissier-Lush on a Park Promise initiative. 1:46

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Visitors to P.E.I. National Park will now be able to show their support in stewardship of the Parks Canada sites by taking the Park Promise.

It's a new initiative that kicked off on June 21, 2021 — National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The idea started in January of 2020 with a collaboration between Parks Canada and Mi'kmaw artist, actor and the poet laureate of P.E.I., Julie Pellissier-Lush.

"We were talking about creating something beautiful and long lasting that would be dedicated to the heart and soul of Parks [Canada] here on P.E.I.," said Pellissier-Lush, who is also a knowledge keeper for the P.E.I. Mi'kmaq rights organization L'nuey.

Julie Pellissier-Lush, Mi'kmaw knowledge keeper and poet laurate for P.E.I., wrote the the poem based on her teachings. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Pellissier-Lush wrote a poem talking about the beauty of the parks and the work everyone should be undertaking to protect them.

After working on multiple versions to see what would work best, Pellissier-Lush discovered an underlying theme that was coming out.

"I was embracing my teachings that I grew up with — my seven sacred teachings and the seven directions — and how all of those things could be used to create something beautiful," she said.

A Promise to the Park

by Julie Pellissier-Lush

It is time to sing the promise it isn't very long
The seven directions we learn today will help to make us strong
I promise to the East to love flora and fauna 
I promise to the South to leave the park the way I found it
I promise to the West I will respect the land I walk on
I promise to the North I will have the courage to be strong… to be strong
I promise to the Sky that I will keep her clean
I promise to myself that I will follow all my dreams
I promise to the Earth, to be a human being
And a promise is a promise and I am promising
My teachings from the directions are love, humility,
respect, courage, truth, wisdom and honesty.
My heart will always be here with breathtaking sunsets
The water and sand, the dunes and trails with benches for me to rest
I promise from my heart in each direction that I know
That I will always look after you each day that I grow
It's time to sing the promise it isn't very long
There are seven directions that will help to keep us strong

How people can take part

Parks Canada launched a website to help visitors to the P.E.I. National Park learn more about the promise and actions people can take.

"As stewards of the park it is our role to present it so that Canadians can enjoy it and also to protect it," said Jennifer Stewart, manager of external relations with Parks Canada on P.E.I.

Jennifer Stewart, manager of external relations with Parks Canada, says the promise is a way that people can commit to helping protect the park spaces when they visit. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Stewart said the park and its ecosystems face some external threats with the impacts of climate change and some species at risk that call the habitats home.

"This is where the concept of shared stewardship really comes into play," Stewart said. "We love the park and we know that our visitors love the park as well and want it to continue and to be here for future generations to enjoy."

The website includes best practices for visitors with things like properly sharing the space with wildlife, reporting invasive species and bringing out all the things they bring in.

Parks Canada has some areas closed off to the public to help create more spaces for the creatures that call the area home, like this bank swallow habitat at Cavendish Campground. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Stewart said they will be working on community engagement over the coming months to help get the word out about the Park Promise.

The poem was mixed into two different musical versions including a slower version set to be sung around campfires.

Bonding with seeds

Parks Canada had some special paper created with embedded Island wildflower seeds for visitors to create a deeper bond with the parks on P.E.I.

"Visitors are invited to write their promise to the environment on this paper and then it gets planted in a pollinator garden," Stewart said.

Some P.E.I. National Parks visitors can write their promise on a scrap of paper that has wildflower seeds embedded and then plant it in pollinator gardens at the campgrounds. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

People are also able to get a certificate by writing out their Park Promise online beforehand. 

A timely reminder

Work began on this project more than a year ago but Pellissier-Lush said the timing of it came at an pivotal moment.  

"It's been a very difficult time for Indigenous people since the uncovering of the 215 children in B.C. and I know our community right now is in mourning," Pellissier-Lush said. 

"But I have always stated and always shared that part of healing is sharing and part of that sharing is allowing people to hear our story and to be able to move forward together."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by these reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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Jane Robertson

Video journalist

Jane Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. She has previously worked out of Edmonton, AB, and Iqaluit, NU, in her award-winning career that has spanned more than a decade with CBC. Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @CBCJaneRobertson