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Listen twice, speak once: Advice for collaborating with First Nations on outdoor recreation projects

Last Updated Jul 13, 2019 at 10:26 pm PDT

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Summary

The author says it's crucial to acknowledge that whenever you step outdoors, you are on Indigenous land

There are examples where groups have asked local First Nations for permission and been told 'no'

It's important to accept the answer you've been given and it will often lead to a better plan

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — In this period of reconciliation, the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC has some advice for how to respect the people who first used these lands.

Patrick Lucas has been helping Indigenous youth get on mountain bikes for seven years.

He wrote a recently published guide called Working in a Good Way which offers advice to anyone who wants to build a trail, run a kayaking trip or construct a climbing course in a way that respect Indigenous people’s territorial rights.

Lucas says says it’s crucial to acknowledge that whenever you step outdoors, you are on Indigenous land.

“When I go out on the land, I want that to be a good experience. For me, that can’t happen if I know I’m on a trail or out on the land in a way that is disrespecting and going against the wishes of the local First Nation,” he says.

For groups with existing trails and plans, Lucas acknowledges it can seem scary to start engaging and asking for explicit permission.

“Whatever that project might be, it’s probably centred around my need or [the needs of] the group that I’m working with–not necessarily the first nation with whom I want to engage,” he explains.

And there are examples where groups have asked for permission and been told no.

In that case it’s important to accept the answer you’ve been given, he says.

“Respect the ‘no.’ If you’re in a situation where they absolutely do not want you in an area, you’re best off taking a step back and respecting that and working with them to figure out where you can go.”

Lucas says patience is key, listening is essential and building trust is the ultimate goal.

“What ever it is that we’re doing–whether it’s skiing or hiking or running–we are undertaking an explicit political act and it’s important for us to make sure that when we’re doing that it’s not perpetuating the erasure of Indigenous culture”

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