A large swath of boreal forest spanning the Manitoba- Ontario border has been recognized by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] as a World Heritage Site.

‘Pimachiowin Aki’ covers 29,040 square kilometers. The area is a rich cultural landscape; home to Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi, Poplar River First Nations, Atikaki Provincial Park as well as Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve.

The designation recognizes the outstanding universal value of both the forest’s cultural and natural features, said a press release issued Sunday.

Pimachiowin Aki means “the land that gives life.”

Organizers behind the bid to have the site recognized said UNESCO declared Pimachiowin Aki as Canada’s first “mixed” cultural and natural World Heritage Site.

A partnership of four Anishinaabe First Nations - Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Poplar River – and the Manitoba and Ontario governments worked with the government of Canada for more than a decade to achieve World Heritage Site Status.

“The decision ends one journey for the four Anishinaabe First Nations who have worked through two previous nominations to achieve success, and the beginning of a new one for the Pimachiowin cultural landscape, home to Indigenous peoples for more than 7,000 years,” said the release. 

“We always knew that Pimachiowin Aki was special and would become a World Heritage Site, and that the challenges that delayed our previous nominations would be overcome,” said Sophia Rabliauskas, Pimachiowin Aki spokesperson, who was at the UNESCO meeting to hear the decision announced.

“We can now devote all our efforts to preserving Pimachiowin Aki as a treasure for our peoples and the world, and I thank the governments and all the others who have supported us though every step,” she added.

William Young of Bloodvein First Nation, co-chair of the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation said: “The decision today allows us to move ahead with our vision for Pimachiowin Aki as a place celebrated for its cultural and natural values, to sustain and support our heritage, and create benefits within and beyond our communities. We sincerely thank everyone who has supported this initiative.

“We will now work to ensure Pimachiowin Aki’s long term financial sustainability by growing The Winnipeg Foundation’s existing Pimachiowin Aki endowment fund, with the support of our current and future partners.”

Key programmes are planned to: safeguard cultural heritage; conserve and understand ecosystems and species; support sustainable economies and community-based initiatives; and, provide for monitoring and public education, the release said.

An early priority is the establishment of an Indigenous Lands Guardian program for Pimachiowin Aki.