In response to concerns about the exclusion of Indigenous peoples from the restoration of High Park’s oak savannahs, the Indigenous Land Stewardship Circle convened for the first time in the Spring of 2019. We are a collective of Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, community members and leaders from diverse nations, including the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, Wyandot, and Métis Nations.
We have been working closely with the Indigenous Affairs Office in the process of building a relationship with directors and staff at Urban Forestry and the TRCA, the departments charged with managing Toronto’s forests, waterways, and ravines. In September 2019 we resourced and hosted a Blanket Exercise – an experiential history of settler colonization on Turtle Island – for 45 city staff and members of the public whose work intersects with High Park, to support them in the transformative work required to engage meaningfully with Indigenous people and the Land. On Thanksgiving 2019 we hosted our first public ceremony on Grenadier Pond, a Silent Action that drew 200 people. In late October 2019 we hosted our first meeting with staff at Urban Forestry and the TRCA. We introduced them to the historical and contemporary significance of oak savannah restoration for Indigenous peoples and opened a dialogue with them about our concerns about chemical management.
We have hopes that this work is the first step in a long journey towards developing a new plan for High Park that would see Indigenous stewards take leadership in oak savannah restoration.
For more information, see our letter expressing our concerns about pesticide use in ecological restoration more widely with officials in the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the Canadian government, as we seek broader recognition and support for our work.