Meet Our Guardians
The hunters tell me they have seen wolves coming out of the bush and running on the ice.Melba Green, Guardian, Bloodvein First Nation
Where were you born?
In Bloodvein. I lived in Hollow Water in my twenties.
What is your traditional name?
Makata Mikinak Ikwe. It means big black tortoise. My language is Saulteaux. My clan is white wolf: Wa pi’shki ma’iingan.
You were a Lands Coordinator until you became a Guardian. What inspired your career change?
I wanted to learn from others and share knowledge about the land. As a Lands Coordinator, you wait in the office for people to come and tell you their concerns. As a Guardian, you are out on the land being the eyes and ears.
What are your earliest memories of keeping the land that prepared you for your work as a Guardian?
Being out with my family at the trapline. Seeing my dad, uncles and cousins hunting and trapping and watching what they were doing. Being out on the land is when you connect with the land and the trees.
What is your greatest duty/honour as a Guardian?
Using the knowledge that I got from my dad and my grandparents. For example, my grandparents were always interested in medicine. The pure medicine on the land is similar to the medicine in the pharmacy. I learned that from my grandparents. From my dad, I remember him enjoying hunting and trapping and always being respectful towards the animals. He always put tobacco down anytime he made a kill.
Guardians are the eyes and ears of the lands and waters. What is the land telling you or showing you these days?
This winter, there is lots of deep snow. It’s the first winter in at least two years that we have this much snow but it’s still not as much as a few years ago. Years ago, the snow in the bush would be up to your waist. Today it is only as deep as your knees.
Water has been low for a couple of years. Last Fall, I wanted to take the kids up to Eagle’s Nest but it was too shallow for the big boats, but you can by still get there by canoe.
The Elders say the low water level is normal but if it gets high, it will kill the manoomin (wild rice). The snow that we have this year is good but it’s not a troubling amount- it won’t flood.
What have you observed about the animals?
The hunters tell me they have seen wolves coming out of the bush and running on the ice. They don’t normally come into the community, but they will when they’re hungry. They can’t find the animals in the bush that they normally eat.
What are your greatest concerns about the land and waters, and how can you as a Guardian make change?
Climate change—it affects the sky, water, land, and the people, and that’s my biggest concern. Also poachers or anyone who wants to harm the land, like mining. I think it’s the community; the hunters, trappers, fishermen and community members who can make change; to stop poachers from coming into our area, or to stop someone who might want to come in for mining or logging. We don’t want them coming in to harm the land or the animals.
What has given you the greatest sense of achievement so far as a Guardian?
Community members seeing me doing my job, being out on the land, being concerned about the hunters and trappers that are out there. My goal is to help my people. To help all of us to be the keepers of the land. They are my eyes and ears too.
How has becoming a Guardian benefited you?
When you’re out on the land, it eases your mind. I’m happier when I’m out on the land. I breath the fresh air and walk around and remember all the things my father told me. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. He would tell us not to leave garbage behind. He’d say it’s being disrespectful to ‘our Mother’. He taught me many things that stick with me today.
What is your favourite way to spend time on the land when you are not at work?
Site seeing. Taking my time walking and enjoying the scenery, like the drawings on the rocks, the pictographs. I always put down tobacco whenever I go on the land to take pictures. Also relaxing in the canoe.
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