Berry Monitoring

Berry Picking Program

DATE: Ongoing

Since 2017, Conklin remains one of the few communities in Alberta that is involved in this unique process that allow community members and representatives from Alberta Environment and Parks to work together to identify key berries and gathering locations. On an annual basis, there is one informal meeting with other Indigenous communities and one pre-field meeting. These berries are collected every summer and sent for analysis. These berries are then tested to determine if they are safe to eat.

In 2017, as a direct result of the berry monitoring program, Integrated Toxicology Solutions Ltd. finalized a technical report as a supplement to the Traditional Knowledge Report. While the Traditional Knowledge Report focuses on the importance of berries in traditional activities, cultural practices and community specific berry picking locations, the technical report focuses more on the understanding of the laboratory data and the potential risk to the community.

Monitoring Sites

In total, there are four monitoring sites that have been monitored to date: two of which near industry development referred to as test sites; and two of which are in areas not in proximity of industry development and considered to be in pristine conditions referred to as reference sites. As monitoring occurs, the data collected from test sites are then compared to reference sites.

Key Findings to Date
  • Berry Harvesting continues to be a key indicator of Conklin’s wahkotowin.
  • Berry group members feel industrial development negatively affects berry harvesting in the community and the community’s wahkotowin.
  • Many things have negatively impacted berry harvesting in Conklin; many are difficult to measure and, in some cases, even articulate.
  • An additional challenge is that many of the things that can be measured (berry pollution, for example) do not fully reflect the concerns felt by the community.
  • While Berry Harvesting as an indicator is trending downward, community members felt the existence and the work could positively influence the indicator, and ultimately, the community’s wahkotowin.
Wahkotowin in Conklin

Through this project, the participation of Conklin’s Berry Group, and their engagement with Willow Springs Strategic Solutions (WSSS), the Group has contributed to defining the Wahkotowin and Indigenous Indicators in Conklin. Being a Cree/Métis community, Conklin has maintained a close connection and relations to its environment, which has become a part of the community’s “health wahkotowin”. WSSS, through its engagement with the community, has identified three key features: relatedness, reciprocity, and interconnection.

Since the development of the oil and gas industry around Conklin, the community has felt that their harvesting activities and overall environment has been under significant pressure. Through WSSS’ engagement, it was reported that berry picking provides an essential quiet time and a way to connect with family and nature. It is also recognized as one of the healing and spiritual activities deemed necessary to Conklin.

Recommendations

The Conklin Berry Group Committee provided the following recommendations:

  • Seek broader community involvement;
  • Take actions to protect critical areas (for example, post signs discouraging littering and pollution);
  • Provide opportunities for intergenerational knowledge transfer;
  • Take time to make tea in the bush and share;
  • Make it more fun for everyone involved;
  • Include kids and grandparents to help; and
  • Ensure it is continued and done traditionally.