Indigenous-Led Nature Walks: Land-Based Learning in Mohkinstsis (Calgary) and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki (Lethbridge)

The Cause

At CPAWS Southern Alberta (SA), we work to protect nature through education, engagement, and collaboration with all Albertans. We are on a journey we call bioDIVERSITY. On this journey, we aim to:

-reduce barriers for individuals and communities that feel unwelcome or excluded from the outdoors;
-amplify diverse voices and stories in conservation;
-amplify Indigenous-led conservation efforts to protect Treaty lands for future generations;
-acknowledge and educate on the history of Indigenous erasure in conservation and the outdoors;
-support the great work being done in conservation by Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) led community organizations; and
-work towards an inclusive, welcoming, and safe CPAWS SA.

As part of achieving these goals, we are requesting funds from the Field Law Community Fund program to host a 2023 series of Indigenous-Led Nature Walks to engage Albertans in land-based learning and conservation through an Indigenous lens. On these walks, entitled Land-based learning in Mohkinstsis (Calgary) and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki (Lethbridge), Elders and Knowledge Keepers will bring their perspectives on nature and conservation to members of the public and leave participants with direction to continue their role in taking care of the environment. The Elders’ willingness to share traditional knowledge stories in their way of life is an amazing gift. CPAWS SA will honour this gift by following proper Indigenous protocols, including appropriate honourariums and travel stipends, demonstrating protocol to the group through tobacco and gift offerings, and delivering a personal land acknowledgment during the walk.

During our land-based learning walks, participants will connect to the land, the Elder, and each other through laughter, games, traditional teachings, and learning words in Indigenous languages. The Elders will remind participants that we are all continuously learning, which allows non-Indigenous guests to move away from the fear of failure in learning from Indigenous perspectives.

As detailed below, each walk costs $1,000 to host. Without funding from Field Law, we will not be able to host any Indigenous-led walks in 2023. The requested funds will be used for Elder honouraria and travel stipends, tobacco and gift protocols, staff mileage to the parks, and an Indigenous Event Consultant/hiking guide to plan, promote, manage, and deliver the walks. Join us in amplifying Indigenous voices with affordable land-based experiences!

Who Will it Benefit?

The Land-based Learning in Mohkinstsis and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki walks will directly impact individuals and families in the Calgary and Lethbridge regions. In line with our goals of reducing barriers to outdoor education and amplifying Indigenous voices in conservation, we want these walks to be affordable and accessible to all. Therefore, we will offer pay-what-you-can tickets, including a zero-dollar option. Each walk costs CPAWS SA $1,000 to run and we are only able to achieve a small fraction of this amount through inclusive ticket sales. We will not be able to run any walks in 2023 without funding support from Field Law.

To further break down barriers to participation, we will host the walks in areas that are accessible via public transit and have ample free parking and accessible washrooms. In Mohkinstsis, the walks will take place in Fish Creek Provincial Park and Nose Hill Park. In Sik-Ooh-Kotoki, we will visit the Indian Battle Park. The walks will be family friendly and in Fish Creek and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki, the walks will be wheelchair and stroller friendly. We also work with partners such as Friends of Fish Creek, Adaptable Outdoors, and Rocky Mountain Adaptive, to ensure that folks with diverse mobilities can participate. Friends of Fish Creek have a mobility bus that participants can ride along with. Adaptable Outdoors (Lethbridge region) and Rocky Mountain Adaptive (Calgary region) have adaptive equipment to support folks with mobility challenges to fully participate in the walks.

Albertans from pre-schoolers to seniors will be directly impacted by participating in the Land-based Learning in Mohkinstsis and Sik-Ooh-Kotoki walks. Participants will include families, individuals, teachers, corporate partners, and more. While the walks will be open and inclusive to all, we will focus our promotion towards New Canadian, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC), and diverse-ability communities. We work with many partners in these communities and will collaborate to break down barriers to participate in the Indigenous-led walks, including language, financial, transport, and physical barriers, among others.