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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

In Ojibway there is no word for fisherman. Perhaps because every man fished for his family's survival.

When a group of commercial fishers came together to address issues affecting all of them, they chose the name Bagida-waad Alliance. It means "they set a net".

The founding group of long-time fishers consists of Guy Nadjiwon, Andrew Akiwenzie and Francis Lavalley. In mid-December the group started to work on a grant proposal for the Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Researching scientific equipment was a time consuming learning process and they put the finishing touches on their submission "ten minutes before the deadline " according to Andrew's partner, Natasha Akiwenzie.

The main purpose of the project is to monitor the effect of climate change on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay – the Saugeen Ojibway Nation territory from Craiglieth to Tobermory and down to Goderich.

The Alliance held their first board meeting as a not-for-profit organization in early April. They plan an open community meeting soon, but for the moment the priority is getting their boats in the water for the season.

High winds have been keeping the fishers off the water, or giving them short, risky windows for setting and retrieving their nets. Wind is one of the first tell-tale signs of climate change, and the fishers have seen the difference over their years on the water.

The plan is for scientific instruments to measure wind, barometric pressure, and temperature to be based on the shore, with Data Loggers recording the temperature and conductivity of the water at fixed points in the lake. Other data will be collected on the boats.

The fishers know that they should not be catching algae as deep as their nets are set. Is it because more light is getting through to that depth? To answer those questions, they will be collecting samples of the algae, and a scientist in Quebec has agreed to analyze those samples.

Applying for the grant has "got us moving in the right direction," says Natasha. "Whether or not we receive this grant, this work needs to be done. This is our livelihood – our life."

Part of the work will involve the transfer of knowledge from elders to youth, and among members of the community as they adapt to climate change. Engaging youth in the process, from stream rehabilitation to recording stories so that future generations will know how it used to be, is crucial to the community.

Members of Bagida-waad hope that if young people in their community want to be fishers in the future they will have the lessons from the past – how to set a net will not be lost.


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