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Aboriginal and Native American peoples have a profound relationship with the land and its resources based on traditional knowledge relayed over countless generations. At TransCanada, we believe that it is important to integrate traditional knowledge, which comprises traditional environmental knowledge and traditional land use, into our environmental planning.
The Traditional Knowledge Program, part of our Aboriginal Relations Policy, seeks to embed traditional knowledge into project assessments at the earliest stage — in short, to ensure that Western value systems incorporate considerations of those who have used the land for millennia.
In order to balance traditional knowledge collection with environmental planning, we typically engage communities in a flexible process that accommodates their specific cultural values, protocols and decision-making processes. Each community chooses to become involved in its own way. One scenario may see a TransCanada facilitator join Aboriginal community experts and scientists on a biophysical study, during which they'll record concerns. For example, a botanist and an Aboriginal expert in medicinal plants may conduct a survey together.
This is a learning opportunity for everyone. They may identify sacred sites, traditional harvesting areas and rare plants requiring protection. All information gathered during these fact-finding surveys is confidential and supports further consultation and decision-making. This helps us understand potential impacts, reduce effects and protect sensitive areas.
Traditional knowledge is passed on orally from one generation to the next and touches on all aspects of life: Customary and traditional codes and rules of governance, land use, the sacred and cultural traditions. This body of knowledge is accumulated over countless generations and may be used to enhance analysis of a proposed project's effects and improve project planning.
Traditional environmental knowledge can be applied to all aspects of the environment and is not restricted to a specific geographic area. It may be applied as seen fit by the knowledge holder and acknowledges an expertise that embodies the wisdom and understanding of the particular natural environment within certain areas in the project vicinity.
Traditional land use relates to an Aboriginal group's past and present use of Crown land for traditional purposes including, without limitation, information with respect to cabins, camps, graves, trails, medicinal plant gathering areas, spiritual, hunting, fishing or trapping areas, on unoccupied Crown land. This information focuses on locations of cultural significance and use within the proposed project footprint.
Three members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe are playing a key role in the Houston Lateral Pipeline construction in Texas, serving as Tribal monitors on land once inhabited by their ancestors and crossed by traditional trails. The monitors provide awareness and knowledge on the significance of this land, as well as on-site expertise, should construction unearth new discoveries.
They're also required to follow a Tribal Monitoring Plan, reporting regularly on activities and issues raised, as well as on how the issue was resolved. When an area of significance is discovered, a tribal ceremony is conducted. The tribal monitors participate in safety and environmental training, and are cross-trained in wildland fire, heritage resource archaeology and first aid.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has a unique history, arriving in Texas in 1807 and later inhabiting the east bank of the Trinity River, currently known as Liberty County.