The Current

Vital Indigenous voices missing in debate over Canada's grasslands, says Cree hunter

After The Current aired a segment on Canada's grasslands, Phillip Brass wrote us to say that vital voices from Indigenous peoples’ are missing in the debate over management of pastures that are essential to the existence of First Nations communities.
Vital Indigenous voices are being ignored in the debate over grassland management, says Cree and Saulteaux hunter Philip Brass, from Peepeekisis First Nation. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Read story transcript

​Indigenous people want their voices heard in the debate over the protection of Canada's prairie grassland.

Canada's ecologically rich grasslands stretch across southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but a lack of federal protection has some worried the delicate ecosystem is in danger of eroding.

Philip Brass shares these concerns and worries that vital Indigenous voices are being ignored in the conversation.

"It's really unfortunate for the grassroots Indigenous peoples here in our territories who don't have a voice."

Brass is a Cree and Saulteaux hunter and community wellness coordinator and says the pastures are essential to the existence of many First Nations communities.

"It's these natural ecosystems that form the foundation of our Indigenous culture," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Our languages were emergent from these landscapes... [and] our linguistic references and metaphor it's all rooted in these environments."

Brass says the loss of the grasslands would come with serious repercussions.

"I think that by losing these there's there's real life consequences that were reflected in our health."

He points to the diabetes epidemic as a concern, "if we cannot maintain a traditional diet going forward in some of our communities."

Brass also worries that other urgent Indigenous issues have caused the protection of the grasslands to be overlooked.

"I think while all that noise and distraction is happening you know plans like these are shuffled off and liquidated. And it's a deplorable tragedy."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ashley Mak.