- Start by thinking about why and how you want to engage youth in your guardian program. Do you have (or need) a clear mandate to do this? What can you realistically commit to?
- Talk to youth! Go where youth gather in your community and engage them in conversations about what they think and want and how they might connect with the work you are doing.
- When meeting with youth, make it as fun and engaging as possible. Be creative to encourage participation. Share stories and videos, bring food, plan activities, etc.
- Build relationships with those already connected to youth in your community such as teachers, youth workers, language program coordinators, coaches, camp leaders, etc. Work with them to develop activities and share information about opportunities for youth.
- Involve your guardians in existing youth programs or gatherings. Offer to have guardians provide logistical support to youth gatherings or come and talk to youth about guardian work.
- Invite youth to go out on patrol with guardians and get them directly involved in field-based activities. Be sure to address any consent, insurance, or safety requirements.
- Create opportunities for youth to gain work experience through mentorships, job shadowing, summer employment, or internship positions within your guardian program.
- Find specific ways to encourage girls to participate in guardian activities. Make sure young women are front and centre as role models and mentors.
- Help connect youth to seasonal activities happening on the land such as fish camps, seasonal food harvesting and processing, or medicine harvesting.
- Schedule activities when youth are available and not in school – evenings, weekends, and summer.
Resources in chapter Involve Youth
“Guardians bring people back to the land. The land is sacred -- it is their power. Bring youth and elders together, where duty and responsibility can be passed on.”
“Guardians bring people back to the land. The land is sacred -- it is their power..."
Section: What are some ways to engage youth?
- Have guardians participate in career fairs, take-a-child-to-work days, youth gatherings, etc.
- Give presentations at schools on your work as a guardian. Prepare a slide show on ‘A Day in the Life of a Guardian’, share stories, bring in community experts and elders.
- Leave brochures or posters about your guardian program in schools and other places that youth gather.
- Have guardians be visible and in uniform at key community events like children’s celebrations, harvest festivals, Indigenous Day, etc.
- As part of your Indigenous Guardian program consider creating a "Junior Guardian" position to provide a youth with work experience or summer student employment.
- Provide formal opportunities for job shadowing or mentorships for young people interested in becoming guardians.
- Participate in fundraising activities for youth initiatives – donate a door prize, make food, provide transportation.
- Provide transportation and logistical support to youth activities such as school field trips, rediscovery camps, culture camps, canoe journeys, etc.
- Get youth involved in physical work that guardians are doing such as cleaning up significant cultural sites or campsites, building cabins, cutting hiking trails, etc.
- Set up a monitoring program for youth to participate in.
- Use tools such as social media, photography, video, GoPros, voice recording, drawing, crafting, writing, music, etc. to capture and share youth observations and experiences. See the story 'Grassy Narrows Youth - A Powerful Voice for the Land' for an inspiring youth video!
Ideas for Involving Youth in your Guardian Program
“In Lutsel Ke, every boat has a couple of kids in it and their role is to do nothing more than absorb and learn. Although it is informal, it's still called ‘nahatni dene’ or learn while doing. Folks with the program for 4-5 years have “graduated” but sometimes don’t have navigation skills or confidence so they go out to learn with more experienced senior land users.”
“Every boat has a couple of kids in it and their role is to do nothing more than absorb and learn. Although it is informal we still..."
The goals of the Ni Hat’ni Dene ranger program include: maintaining the integrity of cultural sites and the natural beauty within Thaidene Nene; hosting and providing interpretive tours for visitors in the area; monitoring and documenting visitor activity, cultural features, and environmental/wildlife values; and transmitting cultural and scientific knowledge to younger generations.
Ni Hat’ni Dene Ranger Program - Lutsel K’e First Nation
This is a Nunatsiavut program that focuses on bringing together youth and harvesters to enhance a community freezer program in Nain. The program responds to priorities in Nunatsiavut while addressing outcomes of the Inuit Health Survey. The overall goal is to help build the resiliency of youth in the face of widespread social, environmental, and cultural change. It is about building connections (social and environmental) and reaching out to youth to enhance the mental, physical, and spiritual health of youth through intensive, long-term engagement and programming.
Aullak, sangilivallianginnatuk “Going Off, Growing Strong” Program
First started in 2009, the SEAS initiative has supported youth in four communities in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia as well as the Lutsel K'e Dene community in in the Northwest Territories. Working collaboratively with TNC Canada, each community partner develops and designs a program uniquely suited to the community's priorities, needs and opportunities for engaging youth in stewardship learning and activities. Programs integrate traditional and cultural knowledge with western science approaches, and typically have both a school component and a summer internship component. Interns are often paired with Guardian Watchmen for some portion of their summer training.
Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) Community Initiative
A Heiltsuk First Nation nonprofit organization supporting youth, culture and environment. Koeye camp is an innovative Heiltsuk youth science and cultural camp program that takes place every summer in the Koeye River valley. The camp’s mandate is “to open the eyes of our children to their responsibility as stewards of the land, culture and resources”.