We started this Initiative because of the land. The people of Pikangikum have lived for a long time and this is how we survived … We started this for our youth. For my part, I am now old so I need to plan for their future.
Elder Solomon Turtle (in translation)
Since time immemorial, the Whitefeather Forest has provided economic opportunities for the people of Pikangikum. We have always sought to add value to what the forest has given to us. We have had economic partnerships for generations. The Ojibway word for trading is Odaawaywin and the name of the City of Ottawa comes from this word.
Over the generations, Pikangikum people have adapted to challenges as changes have occurred in the larger economy and within our community. In doing this we have remained faithful to our responsibilities as Keepers of the Whitefeather Forest.
Once again Pikangikum people are facing new challenges for our people. Our population is rebounding and is growing dramatically. Our on-reserve population is over 2,400, with a large majority under the age of 30. At the same time, many of our customary land-based livelihood opportunities have been declining with changing economic times. For example, in the late 1980’s our fur economy collapsed as the market for furs virtually disappeared. The commercial market for freshwater fish, another important source of livelihood, also declined at this time.
In response to our changing economic circumstances we began the work of creating new economic opportunities for our people from the forest. Our Elders say our youth need hope through new livelihood opportunities. This is why they say they are working so hard on the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.
Working in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources we developed a land use strategy – Keeping the Land – which was completed and jointly approved by Pikangikum and Ontario in 2006. This Strategy provides direction and guidance for developing new enterprise opportunities in forestry, tourism, minerals, and Non-Timber Forest Products. We have established strong business partnerships and we are undertaking business planning to develop these new enterprise opportunities.
At this time, planning for both stewardship and enterprise opportunities is being undertaken by Whitefeather Forest Community Resource Management Authority, owned by Pikangikum First Nation.
The development of relationships and partnerships is central to our enterprise strategy. Currently we are working with FPInnovations, Canada’s premier forestry research and innovation organization. We also continue to pursue strategic partnerships which will advance our enterprise strategy.
Interest in our economic vision for the Whitefeather Forest Initiative is international in scope. For example, the Swiss organization Economic Development for Amerindians has created an information clearing-house web site on aboriginal economic issues which includes a feature page on the Whitefeather Forest Initiative.
We are networking with organizations like EDAI to promote understanding of indigenous approaches to economic, cultural well-being, and stewardship of the land. These networks also help us to expand our business linkages and partnerships.
To learn more about our enterprise vision and goals for the Whitefeather Forest and related enterprise opportunities, follow the links below.
- Enterprise Vision
- Customary Land Uses
- Commercial Forestry
- Non-Timber Forest Products
- Whitefeather Forest Community Resource Management Authority
- UNESCO World Heritage Site Project
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