Sakitawak is the Cree name of the Île-à-la-Crosse community in northern Saskatchewan, meaning "where the rivers meet."
It's also the name of a campaign working to designate an area in northwestern Saskatchewan as an Indigenous protected and conserved area, or IPCA — a federal initiative under which Indigenous leadership is a key part of conservation decisions and actions in the area.
The Sakitawak IPCA would cover roughly 22,000 square kilometres, home to watersheds and breeding grounds for at-risk species. It would cover the N-14 fur block — a defined trapping region, with regulated borders and membership, near Île-à-la-Crosse in northwestern Saskatchewan.
"We still use the land for our lives," said Peter Durocher, manager of the Sakitawak IPCA project, in an interview with CBC Radio's Morning Edition.
"We get fish out of the lake to feed our families. We also pick berries and medicines off the land."
Nature Canada is working with a Sakitawak conservation team to ensure that the traditional trapping area becomes an Indigenous protected and conserved area — all under Métis management.
More than 20 communities are receiving federal funding to establish the protected areas, and others have obtained funds for early planning and development of conservation projects, according to the federal government.
"Indigenous-led conservation is the future of nature protection in this country and around the world, and we're very committed to supporting it," said Kelsey Scarfone, a conservation policy manager with Nature Canada, a national conservation charity.
"This project is really about taking the lead from the Métis community of Sakitawak, and really using our platform to share this story with others," she said.
Durocher also sees value in the partnership.
"I think everybody sees the scientific knowledge that's out there, but we're trying to put in the traditional knowledge that's out there," he said.
"I think [with] both those mixed together, people will have a bigger insight into what's happening."
The Indigenous peoples of Sakitawak include the Métis, Woodland Cree and Dene, who have over hundreds of years gathered knowledge to manage the land sustainably.
Vulnerable species in the area include woodland caribou, old-growth pine trees, moose, birds and fish.
If it becomes a protected area, Sakitawak will be the third-largest IPCA in Canada.
LISTEN | Sakitawak conservation project: