Truth, reconciliation and the environment

Rick Frost

CEO, The Winnipeg Foundation

We must heed indigenous teachings about our planet.

One thing you learn quickly about working in community is that everything is connected to everything else. We wrote our Strategic Plan for 2019 to 2021 after taking into account feedback from both the public (through Winnipeg’s Vital Signs® 2017) and from the charitable sector (as documented in Stressed, Stretched and Still Standing, released in 2018). As with any plan, the goal is to set priorities. In our case, two areas of focus seem increasingly connected to one another.

It is becoming absolutely apparent that perspectives once described as primitive are in fact highly advanced.

Rick Frost
Winnipeg Foundation CEO

The Indigenous people of our country represent less than five per cent of the population, but are the primary occupants of enormous tracts of natural land. A traditional Indigenous lifestyle makes for minimal contributions to Canada’s carbon footprint. Any exposure at all to Indigenous culture teaches the importance of “mother earth” and environmental stewardship. It’s easy to understand these deeply rooted values. Indigenous people are one with the land and see themselves as part of the natural world. In contrast, western society has traditionally seen the land as something to develop and exploit. These views of how the world works are very different.

An important part of truth and reconciliation is giving voice to Indigenous people’s perspective. When it comes to the priorities of our society, Canadians must admit that Indigenous voices have rarely been heard in the conversation. With the threatened extinction of thousands of species due to climate change, it is becoming absolutely apparent that perspectives once described as primitive are in fact highly advanced. In this sense, The Foundation’s focus on environmental stewardship and reconciliation are closely aligned. Our challenge now is to listen to Indigenous-led charitable organizations that are pursuing an environmental stewardship mandate. While opinions may differ, we need to hear their voices and to heed their advice for the sake of our children.

Both reports referenced in this article are available on our website: wpgfdn.org


This story is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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