Saskatchewan·Called to Action

Nehiyaw/Cree woman shares traditional teachings to inspire path forward to fight climate change

A Saskatchewan woman says stewardship of land is a key piece of reconciliation and fighting climate change.

Jordyn Burnouf says it is our duty to protect the land

Jordyn Burnouf has dedicated her career to the conservation of land through an Indigenous lens. (Submitted by Jordyn Burnouf)

A Saskatchewan woman says stewardship of land is a key piece of reconciliation and fighting climate change.

Jordyn Burnouf's deep connection to the land came early in life. She has many childhood memories of picking berries in the bush with her kokum. Valuable teachings were passed on in those moments, including a responsibility to protect the land.

"Conservation is a foundational tenet of Indigenous worldview," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski. "In Indigenous knowledge systems, you don't take more than you need."

A member of the Black Lake First Nation, Burnouf grew up in the Métis community of Île-à-la-Crosse, about 375 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Burnouf has dedicated her career to the conservation of land through an Indigenous lens. Part of that, she said, is remembering the first treaty was not between humans. It was between people and animals.

"That treaty was our promise to be stewards of the land," said Burnouf.

Burnouf said that when conflicts over land arise, they are not about ownership. They are about stewardship. 

"You look at what's happening right now with Wet'suwet'en, and they're fighting to protect land, right? It's not about who has ownership over it. That's unceded territory." said Burnouf. "I think we need to understand as human beings that it is our duty to protect the land."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action say treaty relationships should be based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility. Burnouf said approaching the initial treaty in the same way will play a key role in both reconciliation and the fight against climate change.

"If we go back to that natural understanding that we have of what mutual respect looks like, I think our world would be a very different place," Burnouf said, who recently returned from attending the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

Jordyn Burnouf attends the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. (Submitted by Jordyn Burnouf)
LISTEN| Burnouf says land conservation through an Indigenous lens will create change 
In this weekly series, we hear from a young woman who is committed to the environmental stewardship of Saskatchewan’s North. Jordyn Burnouf says land conservation through an Indigenous lens is the key to both reconciliation and combating climate change 7:33

Burnouf hopes sharing her cultural knowledge about conservation will make an impact in the energy sector.

"We're looking at what's happening in B.C., with the floods and forest fires, and it's not just in B.C., it's all around the world, right? I don't think we're moving quick enough. So I think we all need to drastically change our mindset in terms of where climate change fits in our minds and in our lives and start slapping some action onto that mindset."

Evacuation orders remain in place for hundreds of properties in southwest B.C. 

As for how to take action, Burnouf turns to her past. The teachings she learned picking berries with her kokum provide the answers. 

"I think we need to go back to those foundational teachings of just being OK and happy with what we have. You know, not needing to have so much," she said. "We need to still see that we have that opportunity to go out and always reclaim those teachings. It's not just Indigenous people, but everybody."

Called to Action: Stories of Reconciliation features individuals and groups across the province who are embracing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. Themes range from language to justice, putting the spotlight on local efforts and the people leading them. Read more Called to Action stories here.



Heather Morrison is a theatre artist and associate producer with CBC. She lives in Saskatoon with her son, Judah. Follow her on twitter @heather_mo.

-with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning