Portals for Collaboration

Leroy Little BearCollaboration is central to our work at Alberta Ecotrust – just check out the “What we Do” tab! We are consistently exploring new ways to work together on environmental issues, and encouraging our grantees and partners to do the same. We believe initiatives that incorporate diverse views, tactics, and perspectives can be stronger and more effective than those undertaken alone or within an echo chamber.

Collaboration is a term that is used a lot to cover many things. What does it really mean? Why (and how) do alliances help us tackle the complex social-ecological issues of our time? We thought we would explore this idea through a look at the Iinnii Initiative.

Iinnii is the name given by the Blackfoot Confederacy to the animal commonly known as bison or North American buffalo. The Iinnii Initiative began as a treaty between the Blackfoot (Canada) and Blackfeet (United States) people; an agreement to work toward returning free-roaming bison back to the landscape. Since then, the treaty has expanded to include non-profit organizations, individuals, and Indigenous groups around the world. At a recent Summit hosted by the Kainai Ecosystem Protection Association (KEPA), Leroy Little Bear explained:

“The treaty speaks to issues such as culture, health, research, and conservation. The signatories have all used the buffalo as a portal for working together on any of these issues… The buffalo can be one of our partners in restoring the landscape.”1

Bison – and their current absence on Alberta’s landscape – have more than ecological implications. Bison represent the cultural fabric of the Blackfoot people.

The Iinnii Initiative is about community, environmental, and spiritual health. It is one example of a social and ecological approach that requires a solution with many players. One group cannot bring bison back to the landscape alone: it’s one that requires Indigenous communities, industry groups, government, individuals, and even bison themselves.

Collaboration is beginning to look less like partnership agreements and five-year strategic plans, and more like groups and individuals aligning on a common vision. We don’t have to agree on the how but a common vision moves mountains.

At Alberta Ecotrust, we know that convening around a common issue or objective is often the portal for collaboration. We do that with our Grant Program, our annual Environmental Gathering, our water lab Project Blue Thumb, and the new Climate Action Network we are about to launch.

Get in touch if you would like to learn more!

1Little Bear, L. 2017. Iinnii Initiative. 9 June, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge AB.

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