This living document is for non-Indigenous people who enjoy recreational outdoor activities like canoeing, hiking, biking and walking.

When trekking, respecting Indigenous history and present relations to land and water are equally as important as packing your gear and knowing your canoe, bike and safety measures.

I hope that this living document is one useful starting point for outdoor enthusiasts.

I want to stress that this is a living document and that I welcome words of criticism and experience.

Why this Matters

Prior to a trip, outdoor enthusiasts often focus research on charting their course on a map and identifying a region’s landmarks and attractions.

The problem here is that the Indigenous history of the land and its present significance to Indigenous communities are usually overlooked.

This is a problem because non-Indigenous people have a responsibility to respect inherent Indigenous rights to the land and water. This has to be taken into account in order to trek respectfully.

When trekking in Canada, odds are that the region you are travelling through has a rich Indigenous history, present and future.

They may be called provincial and national parks but this generally overlooks that these often-beautiful entities are developed and maintained by the Canadian state. The mere thought of a “national” park on traditional Indigenous lands can rightfully be hurtful to Indigenous communities.

How to Approach Indigenous History and the Present

Start:

Thinking, talking and writing about these matters are often complex and sensitive but it is important work that too easily gets neglected by non-Indigenous outdoors enthusiasts.

We have to start somewhere and I hope that River Left is a useful resource for fellow outdoors enthusiasts.

I will try to provide resources and tools to help us along.

Centre Indigenous voices:

Interest in respecting Indigenous traditions and culture is rising because of movements like Idle No More.

This is generally a positive development but the burden for educating non-Indigenous people often falls upon Indigenous peoples themselves, who are asked to give workshops or engage in lengthy and often sensitive conversation.

There are also excellent Indigenous publications, artistic projects and community events.

Learn and practice collectively:

I enjoy trekking solo but learning and changing habits should be a collective act.

Learning about how to relate to the land and water as a non-Indigenous person is a shared responsibility that we are working on together.

Talk with friends, family members and fellow trekkers.

Be humble, open to criticism:

I have only been thinking seriously about the colonial context of recreational outdoor activity since 2015.

Welcome criticism, teachings and conversation. Be open to learning, improving, being corrected or being called out.

Have serious fun:

It is important to face the ongoing legacy of colonialism and take it seriously. We also engage in outdoor recreation primarily because it is pleasant and often fun.

The practical suggestions shared on River Left strive to strike this balance.

Getting started:

Suggestions for Respecting Indigenous Lands & Waters” is a living document that provides concrete suggestions for how to learn about and engage with the land, waters, plants and creatures.

I want to stress that this is a living document and that I welcome words of criticism and experience.

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