When Walker Environmental Group heard
of the level of importance of the Thames River
Watershed to the ten First Nation groups that
were being consulted as part of the Southwestern
Landfill Environmental Assessment, we
decided to do something about it. In June, we
hosted our first Thames River Workshop in
Woodstock, Ontario. Our intention was to explore
opportunities to develop a greater understanding
of the history, connections and influences of the
river to the spiritual, social, environmental and
economic aspects of First Nations’ communities
along the Thames.
The day of sharing provided us an understanding of the relationship the First Nations have to the Thames River and raised our awareness of their history, spirituality, values, culture and current presence on the land.
The First Nation representatives who attended shared their stories of “awareness and loss” and their desire for the stewardship of the Thames. Protecting water is of vital importance to the health of the children of the communities. Priorities included improving watershed health, understanding the fisheries and ecology of the area as well as the impacts the river currently experiences and taking action to improve the health of the river while raising awareness of their history and culture.
In November, we hosted a Thames River Ecosystem Day. We invited the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and Stewardship Oxford to share their knowledge of the Thames with us and the First Nation representatives. Phil Holst of Stewardship Oxford shared his passion for wetland restoration projects. The conservation authority shared their knowledge of water quality, the reptiles and fish of the Thames and what actions they take in collaboration with their communities to caretake the watershed. Together we brainstormed ways for First Nations and non-indigenous peoples to work together as stewards of the Thames; to integrate First Nations’ perspectives, stories, values and culture into projects along the Thames; to establish a project that would not only restore the health of an area of the Thames but also showcase First Nations’ values, culture and stories and to raise awareness and create a greater connection to the Thames River.