Two University of British Columbia (UBC) Forestry professors were honoured by keyoh holders at a “Dené ilhuna hooz leh” event in Fort St. James, B.C. on July 1.
Professors John Nelson and Gary Bull are being recognized for partnering with the Maiyoo Keyoh Society to deliver a course on sustainable forest management.
The event included drumming performances, and a feast of some traditional foods.
“Everything was perfect. From the half dry beaver meat and beaver tail, to the bear and moose meat and nose, from the drumming to the dancing and singing by Guy and Ruby Dominic-Prince,” said Jim Munroe in a post after the recognition event at Kwah Hall.
Munroe said keyoh holders Lillian Sam, Nakazlungkoh Keyoh, keyoh holder Rusty Alec and Catherine Coldwell ustani were also honoured for lifetime recognition of their work to protect the keyoh.
“This is the first time a ceremony like this has been done since 1939,” elder John Julian said. “It was Beaver Lake Keyohs that did it then too.”
The special honoured guests were gifted with drums and moccasins as well.
In the course, students worked with the First Nation community to develop forest management plans.
“The students learn what it means to deal with a different value system, a different history and different traditions,” says Bull. “The keyoh holders have embraced our students and the experience has been truly transformative for them. In return, the students apply the knowledge they have acquired in their undergraduate degree to a piece of forest land that is deeply treasured by a First Nations community.”
A Dené ilhuna hooz leh, which means bringing people together. This one was first celebration of its kind that the keyohs have held in 40 to 50 years.
“In the past, when a person wanted to show their gratitude for what someone had done for him or his family, he would ‘bring people together’ to share his appreciation,” says Ken Sam, spokesman for the Daiya-Mattess Keyoh. “We appreciate what UBC has done for us and would like both John and Gary to be present at our family’s function to be honoured for their important roles in the overall development of our family lands.”
For the past six years, groups of students from Nelson and Bull’s Forestry 424 class have visited different keyohs and developed plans for community forestry projects. Travel to the communities by the students has been made possible through the on-going support of a private B.C.-based foundation.
The students gain a better understanding of local community values and how to apply knowledge about Aboriginal rights and title. This prepares them for their future careers as foresters and working with Aboriginal communities.
“Working with the keyoh holders has changed the way I think about forests and forest management. The stories, history, attachment and commitment to the land are special and they have a profound and lasting effect on us,” says Nelson. “We are very proud of how our students handle themselves in this environment, showing respect, listening, communicating and delivering high quality work for the keyoh holders.”
The Maiyoo Keyoh Society approached UBC’s Faculty of Forestry in 2007 looking for help to develop high-level plans to protect local forest habitat, wildlife and cultural resources. Keyoh means territory that a group of people or extended family has ownership and land rights to.
Dakelh (Carrier) law recognizes the heads of extended families as keyoh holders who are responsible for watching their territories. Students have worked with a number of keyohs in the Fort St. James. region over the past six years.