Indigenous Evacuations: Navigating Jurisdiction and Collaboration

November 29 2023 | 1200-1300 MST

Dive into a conversation about evacuations for Indigenous communities. We offer a thought-provoking panel discussion on the critical theme of jurisdiction in the context of evacuations for Indigenous communities. We’ll explore how wildfire agencies, emergency management, and Indigenous communities work together. Our speakers will share experiences and practical strategies. We’ll also take a closer look at the book, “First Nations Wildfire Evacuations: A Guide for Communities and External Agencies.” This session is an opportunity to exchange ideas, learn, and contribute to the safety of Indigenous communities.

Presented by:

Dr. Amy Cardinal Christianson is Métis and grew up in Treaty 8 territory (northern Alberta, Canada). Her Métis relations are the Cardinal (Peeaysis Band) and Laboucane (Laboucane Settlement) families. She currently lives near Rocky Mountain House in Treaty 6 (central Alberta). Amy is a Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service (Natural Resources Canada) and is currently on interchange to Parks Canada as an Indigenous Fire Specialist in the National Fire Management Division. Amy works with Indigenous Nations across Canada on fire stewardship practices like cultural burning and collaborates with Indigenous peoples from around the world on decolonising land management. She also studies wildfire evacuations and advocates for Indigenous wildland firefighters. She is the co-author of the books, First Nations Wildfire Evacuations: A guide for communities and external agencies and Blazing the Trail: Celebrating Indigenous Fire Stewardship. Amy also cohosts the Good Fire podcast, which looks at Indigenous fire use around the world. She is a board member on the International Association of Wildland Fire and on the International Research Advisory Panel for Natural Hazards Research Australia.

Dr. Tara McGee is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Associate Dean (EDI) in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Alberta. There, she leads the Human Dimensions of Hazards Research Group. Together with research team members and colleagues, she has conducted research on social science aspects of wildfires including wildfire prevention, mitigation, preparedness, evacuation, and recovery. She also co-leads the First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership.

Michelle Vandevord is a trailblazing firefighter and Associate Director at Saskatchewan First Nation Emergency Management (SFNEM). Leading a team focused on improving emergency services and training for First Nation communities, Michelle also made history as the first female President of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC). Recognized as a Rising Star by the National Fire Protection Association, her dedication extends to reshaping the landscape of First Nation Fire & Emergency Management, earning acclaim across Saskatchewan and Canada. Michelle is also a mother of three daughters, three sons, and a very proud Kookum to four grandsons, which is why she works so hard.

Fran Byers has spent the last 8 years as the Manager of First Nation Field Operations with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). With her team, she provides support to First Nation Communities in the 4 pillars of Emergency Management, Preparedness, Mitigation, Response and Recovery. Fran is passionate about her work and the people and communities she engages with. When she’s not at work, she enjoys camping, fishing, hunting, quilting, and spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Paul Courtoreille is Métis from the Gift Lake Métis settlement, bilingual in Cree and English, and a Wildfire Ranger with the Alberta Ministry of Forestry and Parks. Paul has 45 years of experience in wildland firefighting. He utilizes a strengthbased and holistic approach in co-creating culturally safer spaces in wildland firefighting in the Slave Lake area and abroad during his seasonal wildland firefighting deployments to other jurisdictions. Paul proactively participates applied research and practitioner-based projects that support timely, accessible and culturally congruent knowledge sharing in Indigenous fire stewardship. In 2022, Paul was nominated for the inaugural Indigenous Wildland Firefighter Honour at the 2022 Wildland Fire Canada Conference.