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CHRS Newsletter - Summer 2018


Calling All River Managers & Stewardship Groups!

This newsletter is brought to you by the Technical Planning Committee (TPC) of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) and is a forum through which heritage river managers and stewardship groups can share success stories and connect across Canada.

Previous volumes of the CHRS newsletter are available on our website.

Hello from our Chair - Kelly Stein

Cameron River, near Yellowknife
Cameron River, near Yellowknife

The TPC Chair rotates every year. This year, it’s the Northwest Territories turn. I work in Yellowknife with the Government of Northwest Territories as a Conservation Areas Planner, and have been a representative for NWT on the Canadian Heritage Rivers System for about three years.

In that time I’ve been amazed and inspired by the passion and dedication to Heritage Rivers demonstrated by my counterparts from the rest of Canada. But even more rewarding has been getting to know one of the NWT’s Heritage Rivers and its managers and stewards from the Gwich’in Settlement Area. You’ll find an article in this newsletter about Tsiigehnjik (Arctic Red River).

The work of students from Tsiigehtchic reinforces for me that it’s the communities, stewardship groups and river managers who are at the core of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. I hope we can help you to conserve and celebrate your local Heritage River. And I hope that one day I’ll paddle Tsiigehnjik!

Tsiigehnjik (Arctic Red River) Adventures

Tsiigehnjik, in the Northwest Territories, flows 450 km northwest from its headwaters in the Mackenzie Mountains to its confluence with the Mackenzie River at the community of Tsiigehtchic. The Gwich'in name for the river, Tsiigehnjik, means iron river.

Traveling up Tsiigehnjik in late March
Traveling up Tsiigehnjik in late March

In late March 2018, a group of middle school students from Chief Paul Niditchie School in Tsiigehtchic were joined by community members and elders for a hunting trip up Tsiigehnjik. The river is a significant water way for the Gwich’ya Gwich’in people who traditionally sustained themselves fishing and harvesting moose and caribou from its banks. Recently a cabin was built at a site 32 km (20 miles) up the river which was a traditional stopping place for trappers. Local MLA, hunter and trapper Fredrick “Sonny” Blake Jr. explained to the students that historically families lived in this area year-round, and a sawmill operated in the 1960s and ‘70s a few miles upstream to satisfy the need for building supplies in Tsiigehtchic and also in Inuvik.

Students and local resource people, including Sonny Blake ventured to Swan Lake, located 4 miles west of the river, to hunt caribou or moose. Swan Lake was a traditionally rich site to harvest caribou, moose, beavers and other fur bearing animals. Many Gwichya Gwich’in people traditionally harvested in the Swan Lake area via a trail which was maintained during the sawmill era. However, in recent time, the trail has not been used and has grown in. Cutting the trail to Swan Lake and once again accessing this fertile area was a significant part of this trip for the students, with beneficial implications for the community of Tsiigehtchic.

Margaree Heritage River, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton is a sight to behold—especially in the fall
Cape Breton is a sight to behold—especially in the fall

There are small community cemeteries scattered throughout the valleys and glens of the Margaree River watershed where faded headstones and memorials carved in native stone pay homage to the courage of young Scottish men and women who left family and home in the “old country” in search of a better life. In stark contrast to their few meager possessions, they brought with them a rich heritage and culture which is still remembered and celebrated today by their proud descendants. Perhaps it is in the enduring popularity of Celtic music that we find the Scottish heart still beating with life and vitality. The annual fall music festival known as Celtic Colours ( draws musicians from all over the world to share their love and appreciation for traditional Scottish music. With some 49 concerts spread over nine days and more than 35 venues across Cape Breton Island, the festival continues to grow in popularity with those who enjoy excellent music, song and dance - or just appreciate a good ‘ole time with family and friends.

"My favourite places on earth are the wild waterways where the forest opens its arms and a silver
curve of river folds the traveller into its embrace."
- Rory MacLean, author and travel writer

Update on the CHRS Strategic Plan Renewal

The Canadian Heritage Rivers program is guided by a strategic plan that sets out the vision and priorities for the program. We are updating this plan by taking stock of our achievements over the past ten years and by gathering ideas to chart the way forward over the next ten.

Four themes have emerged through various forums for input:

Paddling French River
Paddling French River

1. Excellence in River Management

A strong network of river managers and partners is key to delivering the CHRS program and realizing the benefits associated with being part of the CHRS. We have heard that the CHRS program should:

  • provide river mangers and partners with the tools, resources and skills to successfully manage their heritage river and conserve its values
  • provide venues for connecting river managers and stewards to share success stories, best practices and innovative tools
  • facilitate regular communications about the program and the benefits of belonging

2. Engaging Canadians to Celebrate and Steward Canadian Heritage Rivers

Many organizations and individuals involved with Canadian Heritage Rivers have noted the momentum created by the CHRS Canada 150 Project, which provided funding for events to celebrate river heritage across the country in 2017. We have heard that the CHRS program should:

  • continue to build broad awareness of the program and the importance of heritage rivers among Canadians, and especially river stewardship groups, river communities, and Indigenous organizations
  • provide regular opportunities to participate and foster a strong network of river stewards
  • strengthen the program’s relevance by communicating about the program outside of periodic events and clearly communicating its benefits
Sailing on St. John River
Sailing on St. John River

3. Indigenous Reconciliation

Indigenous Peoples have a significant relationship with water in all its forms that is tied to every aspect of life—spiritual, cultural, physical, and social. The CHRS program has a role to play in advancing broader government and societal objectives for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. We have heard that the CHRS program should:

  • connect with Indigenous Peoples whose traditional territories encompass Canadian Heritage Rivers
  • ensure that the program reflects Indigenous values and interests
  • promote greater Indigenous involvement with all aspects of the program

4. Conserving Natural, Cultural and Recreational Values and River Integrity

This priority focuses on conserving the values for which rivers were originally designated through sound management and monitoring. We have heard that the CHRS program should:

  • incorporate Indigenous traditional knowledge and local knowledge into river management
  • involve other organizations and individuals in river management and monitoring (e.g. citizen science)
  • ensure that river management plans are up-to-date and river values are monitored
South Nahanni River
South Nahanni River

Nominating and Designating New Canadian Heritage Rivers

The CHRS will retain the ability to designate new rivers and expand existing designations, but this will not be a priority in the new strategic plan.

Next Steps

The CHRS will reach out to Indigenous Peoples across the country with ties to Canadian Heritage Rivers to invite involvement in updating the strategic plan.