Eagle Lake First Nation Taking Steps to Improve Lake and Anishinaabeg Health
The Eagle Lake First Nation, located about 20 km west of Dryden, Ontario is currently conducting a community-based study to help address cumulative effects on Eagle Lake. Being advised by trusted elders, youth, and knowledge keepers, they established their own Aquatic Monitoring Program for which water sampling on the English River watershed was done with state-of-the-art assessment tools and technology.
The Eagle Lake watershed and the fishery has been of vital importance for the Anishinaabeg at Migisi Sahgaigan for millennia. The health of the lake and the rivers is intrinsically linked to the health of the people, who signed Treaty 3 in 1873. Since then, their ecosystem has been under threat, including from significant cumulative effects on the English River system by forestry, dam operations, mining, and tourism development. So, the community has taken it upon themselves to do something about it.
The Eagle Lake program involved work done by an innovative intergenerational collaboration of elders and youth. Community events to seek input from community members were instrumental into braiding Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science to establish a community-driven program. The community participants were grateful to be a part of the program and played an active role in the data collection.
O’Hara Adams, the coordinator of the Eagle Lake Aquatic Monitoring Program at the Lands and Resources Department for Eagle Lake First Nation pointed out that “At one of the meetings, we laid the maps out on the table, and had people label the spots on Eagle Lake that we should look into,”
“This really set up and carried the entire program,” said Alison Fraser, Environmental Scientist and Human Health Risk Assessor, EnCompass Environmental Limited. “We heard that community members were really concerned about some of the impacts to the Eagle Lake watershed.”
The protection of the Farabout Peninsula being key to the community, the study identified the loss of fish spawning habitat, the loss of medicinal and edible plants, the erosion of the shoreline, pollution from mercury contamination, and the changes in water level, temperature, and quality, as the main concerns of the population.
During the study, they collected fish at various locations to identify species, length and weight. All fish were released after study. The water sampling also included pollutant and sediments analysis based on the community-identified concerns.
Currently, the study coordinators are drafting the technical report that will present the data and compare it to federal and provincial guidelines to help identify any concerns. They are also in the process of mapping all of the fish habitat assessment data.
The Eagle Lake First Nation was on hand to present their work on addressing cumulative effects issues during the Indigenous Conference on Cumulative Effects held virtually on March 1, 2022.