The Kesho Trust, in partnership with the University of Victoria [UVic], secured a Connections Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC]. The grant enabled the long-planned tour by representatives of the Enguserosambu Forest Trust [EFT] to meet with Canadian First Nations communities. Three representatives of the EFT traveled from Tanzania to Canada – Nalaimuta Makeseni [EFT Director], Mark Talash [EFT Coordinator] and Samwel Nangiria [Lead Negotiator and EFT Founder]. The purpose of the tour was to share experiences related to maintaining cultural integrity and approaches to resource management on traditional lands.
The Maasai of Enguserosambu now manage their own community forest lands under an agreement with the Tanzanian government. By building their knowledge and drawing on experience from elsewhere they can improve the effectiveness of their approach and deliver greater benefits to people both in the short and long term.
The tour had a very personal touch provided by the support of Canadians in B.C. and Yukon who had visited Enguserosambu in the past and knew the participants through those experiences. These volunteers opened their homes and provided amazing logistical support to the tour activities and made the learning experience a very enjoyable one as well. These people deserve special thanks: Alison Hastings and her family [Victoria], Gillian McKee, Erik Val, Lindsay Staples and Heather Alton [Whitehorse].
During the first week, the delegation was hosted at UVic by Dr. Phil Dearden. tour included time spent at UVic focusing on community mapping and participatory video skills in workshops with Dr. Crystal Tremblay and Ken Josephson. They also visited two Vancouver Island First Nations. The group met with Chief Gordon Planes of T’Sou-ke First Nation as well as with representatives of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation – Joe Martin, Hjalmer Wenstob and Terry Dorward. After being welcomed to the Tla-o-qui-aht FN territory and Tribal Park the guests were shown sites and traditional activities of the local people including canoe carving, traditional artwork, stories and songs, cedar bark stripping, along with a visit to Meares Island. They also had an opportunity to explore parts of Pacific Rim National Park, walk on the beaches and coastal trails and visit the Kwisitis Visitor Centre.
In the second week the tour moved to the Yukon. Two days of meetings and events, hosted by Chief Sharon Nelson and the Council of Selkirk First Nation took place in Pelly Crossing, three hours drive north of Whitehorse. Members of the Department of Lands and Resources also took an active role in the discussions. A key focus was on the traditional knowledge and cultural land use mapping project that had recently been concluded and leaders of the project explained the context, outcomes and value of the work to the community.
Cultural connections were also important with the Selkirk people. Artists demonstrated their techniques and work during the entire course of the event. The guests also enjoyed a performance by the Selkirk Spirit Dancers and participated in a demonstration of stick gambling by members of the community before sharing their own similar games. The Maasai toured the community and enjoyed a visit to the museum both contributing greatly to the understanding of the local culture.
One afternoon during the second week of the tour, the EFT representatives enjoyed the opportunity to meet members of the Kwanlen Dun First Nation in Whitehorse in a meeting coordinated by Councillor Sean Smith and attended by Councillor Charles Chief and Assistant Executive Director Dorothy Sam. The meeting provided an opportunity to share ideas on issues of cultural integrity and land management as well as to add to the potential for ongoing future collaborations.
On Thursday and Friday of the second week of the tour, the Maasai representatives visited the Carcross Tagish First Nation [CTFN] in Carcross. They were welcomed with a smudging ceremony and dance before the program got underway at the new Learning Centre. A broad range of community members attended the events – youth, elders, Lands and Resources staff and Council members. The event was organized and hosted by former Chief Mark Wedge and Eleanor Hayman.
The discussions provided an important opportunity to learn about the CTFN experiences of self-determination and the process of achieving self governance. Land management and planning from a wholistic perspective based on traditional cultural values was also a central topic.
Participatory dancing demonstrations led by Sean and Gary at different points throughout the program brought a vibrancy and meaning to the cultural experience. In hosting the visitors, CTFN members also prepared an amazing array of traditional foods for the lunch breaks but also at an evening dinner gathering. The women who made this part of the visit possible worked long and hard and their effort were much appreciated by the entire delegation.
During the course of the tour, two public events were held – one at UVic and the other at the Old Firehall in Whitehorse. In these events, Samwel, Mark and Nalaimuta presented an overview of their territory, their culture, their communities and their approaches to land and resource management. Their illustrated presentation sparked good questions and discussion with the audience. The visiting and personal connections following the formal program also provided an excellent opportunity for further understanding and exchange of ideas.
All in all the tour to Canada provided a very rich experience of sharing and learning among aboriginal peoples and with a broader public. The tour generated considerable interest in furthering the connections that developed and activities are underway now to further the potential partnerships. We are looking forward to future events that bring together these aboriginal communities from both Tanzania and Canada together with the academic community in both countries.
For more photos and videos of the tour check out our other links on this website.