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Engaging Indigenous voices in the Souris River Study

On November 6-7, 2019, the International Peace Garden provided a welcoming location for the International Souris River Study Board’s Indigenous engagement workshop. Hosted by IJC study staff, the workshop responded to a desire expressed by some First Nations, Métis, and Tribes to have a joint gathering to discuss the study and areas of interest and concern.  Commissioners Yohe and Phare also participated in the event.

Over the course of the two days, First Nation and Métis Nation representatives from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and representatives from North Dakota and South Dakota Tribes were briefed on the role of the IJC and the objectives of the study, and particularly how they can continue to participate.  Many common themes emerged including the vital role water has played, and continues to play in the lives and well-being of all peoples in the Souris River basin. There was also an equally strong interest in protecting the quantity and quality of water resources for future generations, while identifying and preserving areas of special significance.

Overall, the workshop reinforced the importance of continued Indigenous engagement with IJC’s work in the Souris River basin, as well as a shared perspective that we are all guardians of this precious resource. Interest was expressed in forming an Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group for the study, which could then transition to be part of the permanent International Souris River Board upon completion of the study. The IJC will bring this proposal forward for discussion with the Board, study team, and the participating Nations and Tribes.