Photo By Greg Giard/National Geographic
Story by Edwin Dobb
“Renewing ties to the land, says Sophia Rabliauskas, of the Poplar River First Nation, is the only way “to keep the heart going, to keep the flame from dying out.” The way that aspiration has played out in the Poplar River and neighboring communities east of Lake Winnipeg—the Bloodvein First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, and Pauingassi First Nation—has inadvertently placed them in the vanguard of the definitive environmental battle of our time.
That’s because that territory encompasses a vast section of unspoiled boreal forest—a crucial front in the campaign to slow climate change. If the trees are left standing, and the soil undisturbed, the immense amounts of carbon they contain won’t be released into the atmosphere as heat-producing carbon dioxide.
But becoming part of a global campaign wasn’t on the minds of Sophia Rabliauskas and other Poplar River leaders when they started trying to reclaim the place they simply call the “bush.”
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