Building Public Understanding of Indigenous-led Conservation:

Insights from Communications Strategies in Five National Parks

A bull moose stands in the forest in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Prepared by: Dawn Dietrich, PhD, Senior Researcher, Wilfrid Laurier University

With contributions from:

Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources

Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Cover Image: Alais Nevert, ©Parks Canada


With immense gratitude and thanks to Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and Parks Canada for taking the time to share their insights, collaborate on, and validate this work.

Special thanks to Kristy Tomkinson for editing and logistical support, which has been invaluable in executing the vision of the project. Thanks to the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership for supporting the production of this project.

This work was produced with support from Parks Canada Agency. The analysis set out in this report are those of the author. This report does not necessarily in whole or in part reflect the views of the Government of Canada.


This report outlines lessons learned in building public support for Indigenous-led conservation efforts. It highlights communications tools that the conservation sector might use in changing public attitudes about Indigenous-led conservation. This includes conflict resolution approaches, particularly around issues such as Indigenous harvesting activities in and around state-led conservation areas.

Initiated by Parks Canada, this work is intended to support the development of a set of communications guidelines to advance the agency’s responsibility for and commitment to reconciliation in Canada’s National Parks. This report can help inform and guide audiences beyond the conservation sector, including Indigenous governments, organizations, and communities in their work with environmental organizations and/or as they build their communications capacity.

A review of the academic literature found that there is minimal research done on the process of advancing communications that elevate and centre Indigenous voices, ways of knowing, and rights in relation to conservation and stewardship. To address this gap, the report outlines insights from interviews with Indigenous organizations and Parks Canada Field Units from five National Parks.

The interviews explored several approaches to communicating to the public about Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship practices, providing important considerations for elevating Indigenous rights, relationships, and responsibilities within their traditional territories through communications approaches. These findings emphasize the need for broader changes, including creating space for different knowledge systems to coexist with respect, kindness, and generosity.

This report argues that taking these actions is important for two reasons: 1) to develop meaningful, anti-oppressive, and effective communications practices for conservation; and 2) to advance conservation through reconciliation, as well as bring attention to and disrupt the colonial approach to conservation, racism in Canada, and the continued dominance of Western science in environmental management.

Download the executive summary.

Download the full report.