Sakitawak IPCA completes first phase of research

Preliminary research carried out by the Prairie Adaption Research Collective (PARC) suggests increases in Northern Saskatchewan temperatures two to three times higher than in Southern Saskatchewan in the next decade.
The research was carried out as part of an effort to establish the Sakitawak Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). It included sampling old growth areas on an island close to Île-a-la-Crosse.
While much of the Northern Saskatchewan tree population has been destroyed by wildfires, sometimes islands are places fires can’t always get to unless they are hit by lightning, Dave Sauchyn, PARC’s director, said.
“We found some old trees and we gave them information how the rainfall has varied, back to the year 1847,” Sauchyn explained.
He then, was able to reproduce the climate of the past by using computer models to look at what could be expected.
“If the world continues to change the chemistry of the atmosphere, the world continues to produce what is called greenhouse gasses,” he said. “We can use these models to get an estimate of how we expect temperatures and precipitation changes over the next few decades, and we gave them that information.”
Sauchyn said the information gained from the research makes a strong case for preserving the global forest to protect it from climate change.
“The forest and the wetlands produce all free ecological services. They store water … they clean water and the forests and peatlands store carbon,” he explained.
“It’s extremely important to keep carbon out of the atmosphere. Some of the carbon that we’re producing by burning fossil fuels is taken out of the atmosphere by trees and peatlands so the really strong case can be made for protecting the forest and the peatlands, if you want to protect people from the impacts of climate change.”
The date he produced is needed to support the project development.
“They trap, they hunt, and they live in the forest. We only go up there for a few days and collect some wood and we study the forest remotely using computers. So, they are the experts, but they still need some scientific facts, because, if they’re going to convince government that this area should be protected, they need more than just their Indigenous knowledge, which is kind of unfortunate. It’s kind of a sad statement that their knowledge of the forest is not enough; and they have to hire scientists to tell them what they already know.”
Peter Durocher began the project out of concern for the environment in the north and for future generations, and led Sauchyn to the island near Île-a-la-Crosse.
The initial phase included interviewing approximately 70 people from the community, elders, who were familiar with the land, and youth to introduce the project and get their perspective.
“Lots of the elders that I interviewed, they lived on the land all their life. They were born and raised on the land,” he said.
Durocher also said he used his own experience.
“I’ve been a land user all my life, I’ve been a trapper, I’ve been a fisherman, I’ve picked berries,” he said, adding his grandfather also taught him to identify and pick medicines.
They identified natural assets that could be protected within an IPCA such as: Woodland Caribou and calving areas: old growth forests, with pine, spruce, and mixed woods such as Tamarack and Popular: traditional medicines – muskeg, lichen, rat root, peat moss; berries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and moose berries; trapping areas with more than 100 traplines still in use; hunting areas for moose, deer and bear; and waterways that support fishing for Walleye, pike, whitefish, mullets and trout.
They also formed partnership with other organizations such as Nature Canada, Ducks Unlimited and PARC.
The first phase of the Sakitawak Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) project did its preliminary work with funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada under the Target 1 Challenge to conserve 24 percent of land across Canada by 2025.
Sakitawak IPCA, located in Île-a-la-Crosse, serves to protect 22,000 square kilometres of boreal forest in northern Saskatchewan and is the home of Woodland Cree, Dene and Métis people.
The community of Île-a-la-Crosse, represented by individuals from the Village of Île-a-la-Crosse, the A la Baie Métis Local 21, the Saskatchewan Commercial Fisherman’s Cooperative, and the N14 Trapper’s Association, received funding to begin the process of creating a Métis specific IPCA in Northern Saskatchewan in November 2019.
They formed a team, with Peter Durocher as Manager of the project and Kelly Patrick as project director.
Patrick, who is in Ottawa, is completing the report for the first phase in the process to gain further funding to carry on with the project.
The next step in the project includes the creation of a conservation management plan using all the information collected, including data and research conducted throughout the community over the past 40 years and compiled to make the case to have the IPCA established.
The plan will then go to the Government of Saskatchewan who have the authority to determine the IPCA, which would protect the N14 Fur Block area of 22,000 square kilometres of boreal forest in Northern Saskatchewan and be one of three IPCA’s in Saskatchewan and 37 in Canada.