National Indigenous Peoples Day
Aanii! Boozhoo! She:kon! Tansi!
Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day from all of our staff at Turtle Island Conservation and Adopt-A-Pond!
Turtle Island Conservation (TIC) is a subprogram of Adopt-A-Pond that works with First Nation partner communities across southern Ontario for the preservation of biodiversity, wildlife, and wild places. We focus mostly on turtles, but also work with snakes, frogs, wetland ecosystems, bees, butterflies, bats, and savannah habitat. We incorporate First Nations values and culture into our conservation, research, and animal care programs at the Toronto Zoo. Our partners help us to identify stewardship priorities, build new projects, and work together towards a common conservation goal.
Today, we’re celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD), a day for all Canadians to celebrate the unique and diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. Although this day has only been around for 22 years, Indigenous peoples have been in Canada since time immemorial. For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near June 21st due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year. June is also known as the Strawberry Moon or Odemiin Giizis to the Aanishnaabe people, as they use a lunar calendar. This month, when the strawberries begin to ripen, is a time of celebration and coming together. Strawberries are also known as “heart berries”, due to their shape and colour, and represent forgiveness, reconciliation, and heart healing. Therefore, on NIPD, we also remember and reflect on the history between Canadian society and the Indigenous peoples of Canada and renew our goals of working towards reconciliation.
We understand that working with First Nations is integral to conservation work and the protection and preservation of biodiversity in Ontario and across Canada. It’s valuable for communities, our conservation efforts, and the habitat and animals. Not only do First Nation peoples and communities care about the water, land, and animals, but they have an in-depth and holistic knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem, which is referred to as Indigenous Knowledge (IK), or Traditional Knowledge (TK). Western science is increasingly recognizing the value of IK, including when understanding Species at Risk (SAR).
First Nation peoples and communities have also been practicing conservation as a tradition since time immemorial. They depended on the land for all of their resources, including food, clothing, and medicine, but also for teachings related to culture and spirituality. Therefore, First Nations needed to be mindful of the sustainability of these resources. The Haudenosaunee believed that we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations so they have the same opportunities and experiences that we do now.
There are also a number of examples of First Nations altering the environment for conservation. For example, First Nations peoples used controlled fires to burn grassland habitat. This encouraged savannah habitat to grow, including medicines such as sweet grass and tobacco. These actions help to sustain ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, and prevent dominant species from outcompeting others.
Turtles are also culturally significant to First Nation peoples. North America is called Turtle Island as Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee creation stories say that the turtle offered its back for the recreation of the world. The turtle is also considered to be one of the greatest knowledge keepers and teachers, as it can travel between the natural and supernatural realm and through time. To keep track of time while it was traveling, it is believed that the turtle was gifted an eternal calendar on its back. On the back of the turtle’s shell are 13 internal scutes, which represent the 13 lunar months of a year, and 28 marginal scutes that represent the 28 days of each lunar cycle. Each month is named for the activities that take place during that month, such as the strawberry ripening in June! Turtles also have a role in many stories and teachings, making them a very important animal to First Nations peoples and cultures.
We would also like to acknowledge the Barrick Gold Corporation for their generous support for this event.
To learn more about Indigenous cultures and Ways of Knowing or order our Resources, click here.