Deshkan Ziibiing – Restoring our relationships

Emma Young (she/her), Senior Environmental Officer

Deshkan Ziibiing edbendaagzijig “those that belong to Antler River” (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation), have called the watersheds of southwestern Ontario home for millennia.

Widespread archaeological evidence of the “Western Basin Late Woodland Tradition” confirms our traditional oral history teachers’ accounts of this lengthy Anishinaabe dwelling in our territory of Waawayaatanong, or “Round Lake.” This region is known as the third stopping place of the Water Drum on its sacred journey to Madeline Island, centuries before the era of colonization.

We have continued to dwell here despite the disruptions stemming from conflicts with other Anishinaabe nations also dwelling near the Great Lakes, from the wars between various settler powers between 1757 and 1815, and from the imposition of Britain’s, then the United States’, and Canada’s colonial rule. Historically, we managed portions of our territory in common with other Anishinaabe nations, and at times in partnership with the Haudenosaunee.

Nevertheless, the lands bordering the northern bank of Deshkan Ziibi “Antlered river”(Thames River) have been solely in the stewardship and possession of Deshkan Ziibiing since before the treaty era.

Deshkan Ziibiing has been a partner in developing the conservation impact bond since it’s early inception. Deshkan Ziibiing has an interest in conservation activities within the Carolinian Zone as this eco-region spans both our Treaty and Traditional Territory.

Working from the standpoint of including the importance of relational accountability, Deshkan Ziibiing puts forth the perspective that we must restore our relationships with the land in order for conservation to have long-term success. This includes removing humans from the top of the chain and moving to look at the environment as a web which humans are only a piece of.

Through this project, we are able to help fulfill responsibilities given to us by the Creator to protect and steward the lands and waters. The name Deshkan Ziibi comes from the original Anishinaabemowin name given to the Thames River which translates to “antlered or horned river”.

This name was given to the river by the Anishinabeg for two possible reasons. One reason is the name is a reference to how the river forks in London, ON, resembling antlers or horns. A second reason is in reference to a horned serpent which is known to dwell within the river. As a Conservation Impact Bond partner, we felt it important that the original name of the river be used rather than its modern colonial name.

We encourage those working on Indigenous territories to learn whose territories and treaty lands they are on. It’s important to take time to build relationships, to listen, to learn and eventually trust one another when embarking on collaborative work.

Indigenous people have been stewarding the land on the Turtle Island since time immemorial and its imperative the conservation sector begins to acknowledge and work with Indigenous nations who hold vital knowledge on maintaining and revitalizing local ecosystems.


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