- Get clear on why you want and need a Guardian program and what issues or priorities you are trying to address.
- Consider the real-world context you will be building your program in – a SWOT analysis can help you to do this (SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).
- Get community leaders and other community champions involved with the Indigenous Guardian program right from the start to build awareness and support for the program.
- Reach out. Build a network of program allies that can support and strengthen the work you are doing in various ways and in different forums – think community, government, private sector, researchers, philanthropy, etc.
- Reach out to established Indigenous Guardian programs in other places to learn from their experience, create excitement around your program, and save yourself time and money you might otherwise spend re-inventing the wheel.
- Don’t wait for everything to be 100% in place to get going. Just get started and build on the experience, capacity and momentum you’ve built up implementing other initiatives.
- Root your program in a few well-run initiatives before scaling up too fast.
- Be creative, even in the face of budget constraints, and get Indigenous Guardians out on the lands and waters by any and all means.
- Know that building a program takes time, effort, patience and persistence. Help community members understand what it takes to do this work, share information with them, and encourage them to walk the path with you as you develop the program.
Resources in chapter Start an Indigenous Guardian Program
Meeting Summary - Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Stewardship Guardian Program and Sustainability Authority
Going on or hosting an exchange is a great way to get inspired, share knowledge and learn about another community’s Indigenous Guardian Program. Regardless of your goal, this worksheet can help you plan and prepare for a community exchange.
Worksheet: Hosting or Going on a Community Exchange
Going on or hosting a community exchange is a great way to get inspired and share knowledge about Indigenous Guardian Programs. Below are some tips to support you as you prepare for a community exchange.
- Set up 3-4 virtual planning meetings in advance of the exchange to help ensure everyone has the same information and goals in mind.
- Allow time for both communities to share what they’re interested in learning from each other. This can help members decide on activities and create an agenda for the exchange.
- Together with your exchange partner, develop an exchange budget and discuss what each community is responsible for.
- Planning an exchange takes time and effort. Be mindful that both visiting and hosting communities have enough lead time to plan the exchange and get their crews ready.
- Involve members from the host and visiting community in drafting a proposal that clearly identifies and describes the goals and desired outcomes of the exchange.
- Expect the unexpected and be flexible. Crews may need to change their schedule, activities may change, other things may come up. Stay adaptable and go with the flow!
- Schedule time after the exchange to debrief with your crew and broader team. Share highlights of your trip, what you learned or were inspired by, and how to integrate these learnings into your program.
Tips for Indigenous Guardian Community Exchanges
Hosting a community exchange can be a fulfilling and enriching experience. Below are some tips to support you as you prepare to host a community exchange:
- Consider hosting visitors at a time of year when you can be out on the land, water, and/or ice. Your visitors will likely be very excited to spend time out on your territory.
- If you need support hosting your visitors, reach out as soon as you can to the people in your community who can support with accommodation, transportation, and food.
- Make sure your crew has enough time budgeted to participate in and lead activities for your visitors. Avoid hosting when your crew is in their busiest season.
- Help your visitors prepare for their time in your community. Create and share a packing list so they can come to the exchange prepared.
- Help your visitors understand what they can expect or may experience during the visit. For example, if you are on a body of water, provide tips for being on a boat (including wearing PFDs, dealing with seasickness, etc.).
- Consider what information to share with your visitors beforehand so they can learn more about your program, community and territory before they arrive. This may include any relevant information about your community or Nation’s protocols.
- Think about who else in the community (besides people involved with your Guardian Program) could be interested in sharing with, and learning from, your visitors. Perhaps there are leaders, Elders, youth, knowledge holders, or other people who could be involved in the exchange.
- Consider scheduling down time and fun activities with your crew during the exchange. Sometimes the best conversations happen over meals, a fire or time spent relaxing.
Tips for Hosting a Community Exchange
Being a visitor on community exchange is a privilege and a great opportunity to learn about another Guardian Program. Below are some tips to support you as you prepare to go on exchange.
- Spend time with your crew preparing for your exchange. Learn as much as you can about the community and territory you are going to visit. Ask the host community if there are resources or documents you could review ahead of time.
- Make sure you come prepared. Communicate with your crew about what gear, clothes, and other materials they need to bring to be comfortable during the exchange.
- Before you go on exchange, have your crew come up with questions and topics they’re interested in learning about.
- The best exchanges are when both communities learn from each other. Think about your own strengths as a program and how you could share what your program is doing with your host community.
- Consider building in time during the exchange for your own crew to focus on team building and fun. Participating in a community exchange can be a good chance for your crew to bond and develop skills.
- Show your appreciation to your host community. In addition to covering your part of the exchange budget, consider bringing gifts and other things to share. Traditional foods, program swag, or other items can be a great way to thank your host community.
Tips for Being a Visitor on a Community Exchange
"Going to see other programs is invaluable when starting a program. Most community members are interested in Guardian programs but don't know how to get over the hump to get things started. The community may have an idea but will benefit hugely by visiting other Nations who have programs established. It's the spark of inspiration a Nation needs to see how others are doing it and say 'hey this is doable, we can do this."
"Going to see other programs is invaluable when starting a program..."
Aboriginal Guardian and Watchmen Programs in Canada: Recommendations for building successful programs - Ecotrust Canada and Northeast Superior Regional Chiefs' Forum
How Nations Can Work Together and Still Maintain Autonomy: North Slave Métis Alliance Learns from the Ha-may-as Stewardship Network
Bonded by Their Relationship to the Land: Tahltan Host Kwadacha Land Guardians during a Community Visit
Section: Where are you starting from?
"You have to start somewhere. Consider your size and capacity. What are your assets? What are your resources? Can you think about this as a pilot for the first couple of years? A pilot allows people to start before they have all the pieces in place."
"You have to start somewhere. Consider your size and capacity. What are your assets..."
Use this Worksheet to think about the lay of the land for your Indigenous Guardian program. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that shape and influence your existing or emerging Indigenous Guardian work. Download it now
Conducting a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
Section: Who are your friends and allies?
“From the very beginning, map out and identify what people, programs, organizations, or potential partners can help you to build an effective program and reach your goals. It's all about relationships.”
“From the very beginning, map out and identify what people, programs, organizations, or potential partners can help..."
Building a strong network of friends and allies will help your Indigenous Guardian program be sustainable and more effective over the long term. Use this worksheet to think through connections both within and outside your community and how they can support and help strengthen your guardian work.
Mapping your Friends and Allies
“A Guardian program may seem overwhelming but remember, it might be linked to other initiatives that you’re already involved in. You may not have to start from scratch. You likely have relationships established with key players or partners on other topics and now you could be broadening that to include monitoring and Indigenous Guardians work. Build on these existing initiatives and relationships."