SFI welcomes James Handel as Executive Director, Indigenous Relations.

Jacob Handel, SFI’s new Director of Indigenous Relations, appeared at the 2022 SFI / PLT Annual Conference in Madison, Wisconsin on June 15.

He recently joined SFI as a Senior Director, Indigenous Relations, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience into the Indigenous Relations Team with Indigenous Peoples and Groups. Handel has more than 20 years of experience in the field of environmental, local and stakeholder engagement, strategic development, control processes and negotiation. Prior to joining SFI, he was an advisor to Aboriginal Affairs, a leading Canadian paper and forest products company. His past experience includes working for governments, the energy sector, and nonprofits.

Handel joins members of the SFI Indigenous Liaison Team, Reb Paul Robitail, Indigenous Relations Senior Adviser; Dean Asinewe, Indigenous Opportunity Adviser; Zechariah Myers, Indigenous Education Adviser; And Leonard Joe, Indigenous Relations Adviser and SFI Board Member.

“SFI is committed to building and expanding forest-based partnerships, recognizing and respecting the rights and cultural knowledge of Indigenous people,” said SFI President and CEO Kati Abuso. “Building strong and meaningful relationships with Indigenous people is a priority for SFI, and I am pleased to have James as a member of SFI’s senior leadership team, with partners in the United States and Canada to grow, engage and strengthen our Native Network.

noResidents began certifying for SFI forest management in 2010. Today, 40 Indigenous people across Canada and the United States have certified more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) of land according to SFI standards.

Background, education and work experience

Born and raised in Alberta, Handel continues to live in a rural area north of Edmonton. He is a Metis, a member of a group of people of Native and European descent who have their own unique culture, traditions, and language. Of They are meth. One of the three indigenous groups known to the Canadian government, along with the Inuit (Arctic Indigenous) and people of the First Nations. (More than 50 non-Metis or Inuit natives in Canada NLanguages ​​and languages). The Handel family tree contains a variety of meth blends. Early governments and European ancestors.

Handel He received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Conservation Sciences from the University of Edmonton, Alberta, in support of Indigenous relations and the long-term desire to connect the environment.

“My passion has always been to work with indigenous communities and local communities, and I have found that getting a university degree is very important to achieving that goal,” Handel said. “The environmental science program was just started at the university, and my professors told me that I was different from being the first to graduate from that program. At the time, it was a new and growing field. It’s a very strong field right now and it’s encouraging to see so many more Indigenous people studying like me. ”

When Handel graduated, he did little or no work with the natives, but he felt that the degree had prepared him for success. His first job offer was with the Alberta First 8 Governments, an agreement for the first governments in the province.

“I came to the whole circle in some way, and I’m very lucky,” said Handel. “First of all, I went straight to working in the government, the energy sector, and the forestry and conservation sector. I am now very happy to work with the SFI and to continue working closely with the Indigenous people.

A view based on two worlds

Handel often seeks wisdom and cultural knowledge from indigenous communities and continues to participate in indigenous ceremonies.

“When I look at my nationality and my European descent, my views are firmly rooted in two worlds. I will work to make the world a better place. ” “Sometimes it can be difficult to reconcile, but it can be very flawless. There are traditional ways of communicating and learning from the indigenous peoples, but I would like to share that view with the West’s natural resource management system. It is not easy, but it is absolutely essential if we want to move forward with the initiatives that SFI is involved in.

“A long time ago, indigenous knowledge and attitudes were rarely taken into account by Western-based natural resource managers, if at all. I’m lucky to be a part of that change, ”Handel said.

“There is a strong tendency to incorporate indigenous perspectives not only on natural resources but also on health, education and the like and to engage in as much traditional knowledge and decision-making as possible,” he said. “One of the reasons for that is the regulatory and legal changes we have seen in recent years. Historically, indigenous views and rights have not been recognized or accepted, but gradually, by recognizing and pursuing natural rights and resolving equality – through policy, regulation, law or case law – we are gradually creating a path of reconciliation.

While each Indigenous group has its own descriptive characteristics, Handel believes that there are striking similarities within them. “The importance of balance in body, mind, heart, and spirit is recognized in prayer, decision-making, and worldview. This is based on an overview of the natural world. It is important to acknowledge that there are differences and differences among Indigenous peoples but they flow from a common foundation.

look forward

SFI prioritizes participation and support with indigenous communities in all four pillars of work protection, education, community and standards. For example, SFI has trained more than 900 young people in more than 100 communities in the Forest and Conservation Sector in Project Learning Tree Canada. In addition, there are currently 40 indigenous communities certified at SFI. We hope that SFI will be a part of meaningful change for indigenous communities.

Handel said he was pleased to have the opportunity to work with the SFI, noting that its core principles and values ​​are intertwined with indigenous communities in forest-related activities and environments.

“I hope that people will appreciate and understand that one of my roles will be to recognize and respect the rights of indigenous peoples, including through awareness and reconciliation, and that I will try to engage in dialogue with all parties.” “The forest and conservation sector is constantly evolving and there is a growing demand for forest-related products, values ​​and ecological services, and SFI plays a major role in that equity.” I want to make sure that indigenous groups and communities are part of that economy — that they are right in the heart of the wealth sector and that active participation is critical to their own success and to the health of the Canadian and American economies. ”

You can find more information about SFI’s commitment to indigenous relations here.

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