“It’s our way of life that is threatened”: in Canada, fires also threaten the traditions of indigenous communities

The fires in Canada have already burned more than eight million hectares and have consequences, in addition to the smoke, on the inhabitants, in particular where the indigenous communities of northern Quebec live, where entire forests burn nearby. They see their culture and traditions threatened.

>> MAP. Fires in Canada: visualize how the plume of smoke moved towards France

Since early June, the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan has been in a state of emergency. The flames did not reach the inhabitants, but affected ancestral territories, about a hundred kilometers from the main reserve, Obedjiwan 28, located in Mauricie, Quebec. What worries all the same Jean-Claude Mequish, the leader of the community of the Atikamekw council of Opitciwan: “We have cabins that are on traditional territories, where we still practice our ancestral way of life, with small game hunting. But there are no more animals. It’s still our way of life. life that is threatened.”

A forest at the heart of Aboriginal identity

An ancestral way of life for all the inhabitants: they go there several weeks a year in order to pass on the traditions to the youngest. If there have always been fires in the boreal forest, but with climate change, they are more and more frequent.

“The way of life of many of these communities depends on ecosystems that are diverse”explains Guillaume Proulx, a doctoral student at the University of Quebec who studies the upheavals of the links Cree communities with their forests.

“So if the fires become more frequent, the age of the forest would become younger and younger. This is what is most feared for the way of life of these communities which has already been strongly endangered by the colonization, colonialism and industrial development.”

Guillaume Proulx, doctoral student at the University of Quebec

at BlazeTrends

Several communities would like to be trained to help firefighters and authorities on the ground. These lands, which they know perfectly well, are at the very heart of their Aboriginal identity.

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