Pimachiowin Aki “The Land that Gives Life” Cultural Landscape Atlas

17 August 2012 | Article

Pimachiowin Aki: Land that Gives Life. Pimachiowin Aki Corporation, Winnipeg, MB.Davidson-Hunt, I.J., N. Deutsch, A.M. Miller. 2012.

CEESP recently supported the publication of the Pimachiowin Aki “The Land that Gives Life” Cultural Landscape Atlas. This atlas was written to increase public understanding of the relationship between the land and First Nation Peoples of the boreal shield in Canada. The atlas also provides an accessible overview of world heritage sites and cultural landscapes. Most importantly, it highlights the leadership of the First Nations in building partnerships to support their vision of a world heritage site and why such sites should recognize First Nation custodianship of their traditional territories.

From the back cover of the Atlas:

"Pimachiowin Aki is situated at the heart of the North American continent, withinthe global boreal biome. It is a vast 33,400 square kilometre area near the centre of Canada’s boreal shield, straddling the boundary of Manitoba and Ontario, and lies beyond the mainstream of Canadian settlement and urbanization. There are five small isolated Anishinaabe settlements in Pimachiowin Aki with a total population of 6,200. The Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe people) are an indigenous hunting-gathering-fishing people who continue to use and influence Pimachiowin Aki through their cultural practices. Anishinaabe land-use practices are grounded in and informed by their cosmology, spiritualism, traditional knowledge, customary governance and cultural values. What is especially significant is the symbiotic relationship between the Anishinaabeg and the boreal shield ecosystem, Pimachiowin Aki is a living and lived-in Anishinaabe cultural landscape. Through their land-use, customary governance and cultural values, Anishinaabeg engage in a form of reciprocity with the land (Aki) that sustains them. The Pimachiowin Aki partners commit to supporting the continuity of this unique relationship."
Modified from Section 2 – Description. Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project: The Land that Gives
Life. Nomination for Inscription on the World Heritage List.


"This beautifully designed and skillfully articulated atlas is not solely a collection of facts and maps, but a rich compendium of life lessons from the people that call Pimachiowin Aki home. The stories of their connection to this bountiful land provided by the Creator, express a uniqueness of life experience that we as readers are privileged to be able to enter if only vicariously and with no small envy. The people’s tenacious bond to the land, the water, the sky and all that they hold bear witness that this land is indeed, land that gives life."
Lori Nelson, Director, Lake of the Woods Museum

"This cultural landscape atlas is beautiful, groundbreaking and a moving testimony of the deep love and respect the Anishinaabe people have maintained over generations for their traditional homelands and all the biodiversity and life within Pimachiowin Aki. The Atlas provides a comprehensive and eloquent account of the rich cultural associations embedded in this special place and in so doing makes a powerful case for why the Anishinaabe have sought recognition for ‘the land that gives life’ as a World Heritage site. Increasingly in national and international processes involving indigenous peoples and their biocultural heritage, emphasis is placed on ensuring that the principle of free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) is implemented. There are many sceptics about FPIC — few know how to achieve it, many say it is too time consuming and too costly, but this Atlas demonstrates why it is so important. Only the Anishinaabe could ever articulate the layers of cultural and natural values within Pimachiowin Aki. The level of detail about species and specific places would only be shared if they felt integral to, and not just observers of, the World Heritage nomination process. The Cultural Landscape Atlas was also made possible because of the collaborative relationships the Anishinaabe developed with researchers, scientists and other supporters of their vision. The end result is an atlas that everyone benefits from." 
Aroha Mead, Chair, IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic & Social Policy