In winter 2012 we visited the Deninu School in Fort Resolution to talk with teenagers about our work with elders and scientists documenting environmental changes on the Slave River and Delta and the Great Slave Lake. We shared our first issue of One River Many Relations and asked them to tell us a little about what the rivers and healthy environments mean to them, and they shared their insights and ideas with us. We share the results with you here.
1 – How do you know that healthy rivers, lakes and animals are important to your family?
“Its important because my family really likes wild meat, fish, moose meat etc and would be a tragic to lose that. Its a part of our culture.” – Tiana, age 15
“Water is important to everyone. You cannot live without water.” – Nicole, age 16
“We need water to be healthy and to live, and most of your body is made up of water. – Breanna, age 15
“In this community everyone uses the water and eats the fish in the water. This lake right here is very important to me and my family. I eat the fish here and I feed it to my dogs and knowing that its not healthy is very bad for me.” – T.J., age 18
“Because our culture our animals have been important to us and without animals and fish we have no culture to learn.” – Lloyd, age 16
“I know they are important because my family drink the water, my daughter eats wild meat off the land her father brings home. The animals drink this water. Water is something we use everyday. I depend on this water to keep my household clean and the people in it healthy.” – Elizabeth, age 20
“We live by the water. We don’t want this water to be contaminated. Water is life. I always travel on the water. I’ve seen some changes and I’m young. That’s not even long.” – Paul, age 16
Tell us about a time that stands out in your mind where your family used fish or game.
“I run dogs and fish is one of the main foods I feed to them. I love eating fish too.” – T.J., age 18
“We always fish in Buffalo River. Its also where we go camping and picnics.” – Ryley, age 16
“My family has used fish for a long time but it seems like we can’t use fish or animals to eat anymore because of contaminants.” – Lloyd, age 16
“My family eats wild game one or more times a week. Whether its moose or ducks it still comes from our land and these animals live off the water. We don’t usually eat much fish.” – Elizabeth, age 20
“We eat and fish and game. It’s our traditional food. It is also better than processed food we get at the store.” – Paul, age 16
“When me and my dad went to Simpson Islands on a boat. We went for caribou and got a fw on the cliffs of the Rock Islands. I remember this because it was the first time I trolling and caught a massive pound trout.” – Gulten, age 20
What does living by the water mean to you?
“It means that we’re lucky to have such an awesome resource.” – Tiana, age 15
“We’re so close to the water we can access the water whenever we want J.” – Breanna, age 15
“Water is the most important thing around. Everything uses water.” – T.J., age 18
“It is efficient to have all that water near us. We won’t run out for a long time.” – Ryley, age 16
“Living by the water means learning everyday but without fish we don’t really have much to learn and not much to eat because of contaminants in the water.” – Lloyd, age 16
“It means my daughter can grow up the same way I do. To swim in the lake take trips on it, to learn to hunt in these areas and have a water supply close.” – Elizabeth, age 20
“It means everything – water means life. Living by the water is quite incredible. Especially when you travel on it. I’d hate to see this water basin being harmed. “ – Paul, age16
“Traveling on the water when the water is calm is one of the most beautiful things you can experience.” – Gulten, age 20
Sheldon Birnie grew up in Dawson Creek, BC, and received a bachelor of environmental studies from the University of Manitoba in 2011. He lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he is a freelance writer, and the editor of the Manitoba Eco-Journal.