Inside One Couple’s Quest to Protect Canada’s Boreal Forest

Inside One Couple’s Quest to Protect Canada’s Boreal Forest

by pmnationtalk on July 18, 2016953 Views

Credits: Pew

Published on May 31, 2016

In northern Manitoba, Indigenous leaders Sophia and Ray Rabliauskas are committed to preserving the intact landscape of Canada’s boreal forest—for their grandchildren, and the planet. The couple is working to have an area known as Pimachiowin Aki, which encompasses 12,895 square miles of Anishinaabe traditional aboriginal territory and provincial parks in Manitoba and Ontario, recognized as a World Heritage site.

The boreal region of Canada stretches across more than a billion acres, and is one of the largest intact forest ecosystems on Earth. Pew’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign encourages a balance between development and conservation and works with the people who live there to achieve that goal. People of the Boreal is a multimedia project that tells the stories of those who have the most to gain or lose from decisions about how the region is managed.

Learn more about Indigenous leaders Sophia and Ray Rabliauskas, and view the entire People of the Boreal series here:


[Sophia Rabliauskas speaking]

I was born here. This is where my roots are.

This is where my mom and dad raised me.

This is where I connect with them.

We are Anishinaabeg.

We’ve been here for thousands of years.

We’ve seen a lot as a community.

[Ray Rabliauskas speaking]

Anishinaabeg are a living culture. They live with the land. They live through the land.

The land and the people are the same.

[Sophia Rabliauskas speaking]

My name is Sophia Rabliauskus.

[Ray Rabliauskas speaking]

My name is Ray Rabliauskus.

[Sophia Rabliauskas speaking]

The Anishinaabemowin name for Poplar River is Azaadiwi-ziibi.

This was where the trappers and hunters would launch their boats when they traveled up the river.

It’s an isolated community.

The population here is about 1,300 people.

It’s 400 kilometers north of Winnipeg, along Lake Winnipeg.

It’s right in the middle of the boreal forest.

Anishinaabe really believe that they’re inseparable from the land.

From the time we were born, our parents taught us to take care of the land around us.

There is a sacred spirit that lives in the water, and we have to maintain the health of that water and the rivers and the lake.

And same thing with the land. We’re not the only ones living on this land. But there are diverse species that live on this land and depend on that land for their survival.

Pimachiowin Aki means land that gives life, because it really describes why the land is important to the people.

[Ray Rabliauskas speaking]

People don’t believe they own the land. They say this is the land we consider to be our traditional territory.

And what we see here is because it’s, you can see they’ve done a good job.

They worked hard at protecting this land for generation after generation after generation.

[Sophia Rabliauskas speaking]

And that’s what the communities that are working together to designate this area as a World Heritage Site fits in.

That land has been our means of survival as people. And we will continue to work together to keep it that way.

Growing up,my dad trapped, hunted this area, and he provided for his family.

And that really gave him pride in who he was as an Anishinaabe.

We were very self-reliant people.

The culture of our people is very alive, very vibrant. I think we have, as people, a lot to share – especially at this time.

My granddaughter is six and my grandson is 10.

We’re trying to teach our young people to understand the importance of what our people went through and why it’s important for them to preserve the land.

We’ve definitely noticed some changes. Especially in the wintertime, how the river and the lake freezes. It’s different from when we were growing up.

Our elders have really understood that these things were coming.

Their understanding of how we lived in this circle of life, they called it. You do something somewhere, it affects other people’s lives or other part of the world.

And the scientists come along and validate what they say.

By protecting the trees, we’re helping the planet.

We need to share what we have here.

When I need healing, I go to the land and ask for that healing, and that’s what I want to be able to pass on to my grandchildren.

To be proud of where they came from.

I want them to go out on the land, listen with their hearts, and to learn the word, even just respecting who you are, respecting the land. Respecting everything that’s around you, everything that’s alive.

I wanted them to know that and feel that.

To walk gently and softly on this land so that they will be able to pass that on to their children.

Send To Friend Email Print Story

Comments are closed.

NationTalk Partners & Sponsors Learn More