Indigenous

Sipekne'katik First Nation to launch river cleanup next month

On Wednesday, Sipeke'katik First Nation announced its plans to clean up and plant trees around the 72-kilometre Shubenacadie River.

'It's an important part of our ecological, cultural and political history for us'

Sipekne'katik First Nation announced plans to clean up and plant trees around the 72-kilometre Shubenacadie River. (CBC News)

A few years ago, Matthew Maloney from Sipekne'katik First Nation in Nova Scotia noticed gaspereau and bass floating in the Shubenacadie River.

He said the fish kill was believed to be a result of a toxic blend of a heat wave, farm runoff and moon tides. 

The Mi'kmaq have relied on the river for food and transportation for centuries and he wanted a way to keep the river clean. His community rolled out an action plan Wednesday.

"We're going to start with the tree planting and that will help mitigate flooding and the runoff from farms," said Maloney, a fisheries guardian with the First Nation and project manager for the river initiative. 

Matthew Maloney, left, fisheries guardian for Sipekne'katik First Nation, with Kings-Hants MP Kody Blois. (CBC News)

The Mi'kmaw community will clean up litter around the 72-kilometre river next month. Maloney said the cleanup will be from the river's head at Grand Lake until it runs into the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy.

Then, in August, they'll begin planting trees and other plants.

"We're going to restore the natural balance of the ecosystem," said Cheryl Maloney, consultation manager for Sipekne'tatik First Nation, speaking on behalf of chief and council.

"It's an important part of our ecological, cultural and political history for us."

Cheryl Maloney said the river's health is vital to the entire Mi'kmaq nation and served as a traditional rest area for travellers.

The Government of Canada announced Wednesday it would contribute $170,000 to the Sipekne'katik project as part of the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. The fund has $631 million for climate solutions projects and $36.9 million specific to Indigenous projects. 

"We're investing in these projects so that at the communal level we're going to support the broader fight against climate change and also improve connection to community," said Kody Blois, local MP for Kings-Hants. 

with files from Preston Mulligan

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