- 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..."
Making a Positive Difference: "Walking Away With A Good Mind And A Good Spirit" Evaluation of the Stewardship Technicians Training Program (STTP)
Each year, the NWT On the Land Collaborative Fund features several projects and shares the positive outcomes resulting from their work. These stories provide information and evidence that point to the benefits of engaging youth in on-the-land / water programming. You can navigate through the menu bar (under stories > featured projects) to view success stories from 2016 - 2020 including descriptions of and outcomes from each program.
NWT On the Land Collaborative Fund Featured Projects and Success Stories
First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii regions of British Columbia are actively revitalizing their cultural traditions through programs that transfer knowledge from Elders to youth, protect and document oral histories, incorporate language and traditional place names, and support stewardship activities that leverage traditional ecological knowledge. By working to sustain traditions, First Nations are supporting their community members’ multi-generational retention of unique knowledge that supports long-term stewardship of their lands, ocean, and culture. This webpage provides some information on outcomes related to cultural vitality from programs that facilitate the transfer of Elder knowledge to youth.
Engaging Youth and Elders in Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer (Coast Funds)
Section: What are some ways to engage youth?
Consider adding youth engagement to the planning phase of your guardian program. Think carefully about how and why you want to engage youth and build a plan to make it happen. Your plan should try to anticipate the time, staff resources, or budget needed to build bridges to the young members of your community.
Some ideas for involving youth in your Indigenous Guardians program include:
- 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..."
1. Remember to connect to your own mentors! It's easier to mentor others when you're being or have been mentored yourself. You can also set up mentorship opportunities for those you are asking to act as mentors.
2. Consider various forms of mentorship (e.g., adult-to-youth, youth-to-youth, youth-to-adult).
3. Bring a variety of mentors into your program - as Coordinator you don't have to know everything and can bring in others to share their perspectives and teachings.
4. Know youth's strengths and gifts so you can create opportunities for them to step into mentorship roles.
5. Create structures within your program to support mentorship (e.g., hire a combination of new and returning youth for internships, pair up younger and older youth during activities, etc.).
6. Celebrate and recognize mentors (e.g., award school credit or volunteer hours to youth mentors, provide honoraria, offer certificates or reference letters).
7. Remember one experience with a mentor can light a little spark in a youth even when you don't see it until years later.
Creating Mentorship Opportunities Within Youth Programs
The SEAS Toolkit: A Resource for Planning Your On-the-Land Indigenous Youth Program was developed by Nature United and their community partners to help support and strengthen land-based education programs for Indigenous youth. It was created to provide ideas, suggestions and guidance to anyone working on developing and delivering these kinds of programs. This toolkit is for anyone who is interested in starting or strengthening a land-based education program for Indigenous youth.
The SEAS Toolkit: A Resource for Planning Your On-the-Land Indigenous Youth Program
This program is a collaboration between Northern Youth Leadership, the Arctic Research Foundation and Nature United. In 2019 and 2020, high-school aged youth climbed aboard the Nahidik research vessel on its expedition to the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. Youth from across the NWT learned about the science operations of the boat and climate change in the North while living aboard the Nahidik vessel and participating in the research crew's scientific activities.
Freshwater Science Internship Program
Ni Hat’ni Dene is a network of Łutsël K’é Dene First Nations members, young and old, who serve as the stewards of Thaidene Nëné. They assert the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation's Indigenous rights and authority in Thaidene Nëné through their presence and activities on the land and water. Ni Hat’ni Dene crews practice a traditional subsistence lifestyle, maintaining the integrity of cultural sites, conducting environmental monitoring, and interacting with visitors to Thaidene Nëné.
Ni Hat’ni Dene Ranger Program - Lutsel K’e First Nation
SEAS uses educational experiences to help First Nations youth connect with the landscape and culture of their traditional territories. Each program is 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”.
Qqs Projects Society
Bushkids is an on-the-land learning initiative based in Yellowknife, NT. Developing healthy relationships with ‘ourselves, each other, and the Land’ is one of the primary principles of Bushkids. To support this, children learn in their natural environment using an inquiry and play-based approach. Bushkids also offers mentorships to teachers, with their students, to help them to feel comfortable implementing on-the-Land learning into their pedagogical approaches delivered in the public school system.
Bush Kids NWT
The Land and Language Based Learning Program can be found at Ladysmith Secondary School. It was created by Coast Salish elder yutustanaat (Mandy Jones) and William Taylor. It’s a combination of learning hul’qumi’num, gaining hands-on Coast Salish cultural experiences, and learning to care for the Earth. We deliver BC Ministry of Education approved Curriculum through traditional Coast Salish teachings and ways of learning.
Land and Language Based Learning at Ladysmith Secondary School (BC)
Warriors began in the summer of 2015 in the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ community of Hitacu on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Today the program model is hosted in six Nuu-chah-nulth communities, weaving traditional and mainstream leadership and wellness teachings and practices together on the land to build capability, cultural pride and confidence in young men. It has come to teach survival in three ways: wilderness survival skills if you get lost in the woods; how to survive and lead in emergency situations; and strategies to survive life in today’s society.
The UUQMIS (fun) Tla-o-qui-aht Language and Culture Program prepares Tla-o-qui-aht youth to take care of each other and the land through experiences with traditional canoes, the territory, biodiversity and Cultural Lifeways, to develop a strong sense of Tla-o-qui-aht identity. Program activities include canoe trips, hiking adventures and culture camps.
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
The NWT On the Land Collaborative is a collective of diverse organizations that supports land-based programs through funds, resources, and expertise. Each year the Collaborative features stories of programs that have received funding. You can click through programs featured between 2016 and 2020 under the Stories > Featured Projects tab in the header menu bar. Projects featured in 2020 include on the land activities at the Łútsël K’é Dene School and the Decho Paddling Leadership Program.
NWT On the Land Collaborative
NYL runs remote wilderness programming for youth aged 11 – 17 from across the NWT, with some programming open to youth from across the territories and Inuit Nunangat. Their programming helps youth to develop leadership skills, life skills, emotional resilience, and to challenge themselves through positive risk-taking. In addition, NYL runs a Leadership Development Program which is a youth employment program that includes mentoring, training, and paid employment opportunities.
Northern Youth Leadership (NYL)
Misipawistik Pimatisimēskanaw (“life path”) is a program that was created to revive the nēhinaw way by offering culturally relevant teachings to help Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids) youth reconnect with their culture, rebuild connections to their ancestral land, promote healthy living, and provide an education. The ultimate goal is for the youth to grow strong (ta-sokikapawi-t) and know who they are, to understand their strengths, weaknesses and responsibilities in life.
Riparia is a Canadian registered charity that works to connect young women (including non-binary, Indigenous and other youth) and science on the water. With a team of guides, scientists, and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, participants learn about and experience different ways of doing science, thinking about water, and learning from our environment. Participants receive access to exciting tools, like underwater drones and portable microscopes and leave the program with robust outdoor skills, lasting friendships, and the know-how to protect fresh waters for life.
Take a Hike's mission is to empower vulnerable youth with the skills and resilience they need to graduate high school, build healthy relationships, navigate the challenges of young adulthood, and achieve success - however they define it. They do this by engaging youth in intentional and continuous clinical counselling, regular outdoor adventures, and supporting youth in a safe and caring community. Their theory of change is available on their website, as is a report summarizing the social return on investment from their programming.
Take A Hike
Kinship Rising is an Indigenous-led research project based in British Columbia, guided by a strong inter-generational and land-based focus. Kinship Rising works with communities and organizations to conduct art- and land-based workshops with Indigenous youth of all genders including 2spirit and LGBTTQQ youth. They support young people’s dignity, healing and strengths as they challenge and restory sexualized and gender-based violence, honouring the link between land sovereignty, decolonization and body sovereignty.
For more than 25 years, Outward Bound Canada’s programs for Indigenous youth and adults have provided an opportunity for First Nation, Métis and Inuit participants to come together to experience Outward Bound. Through the Open-Enrolment Programs, Indigenous participants from diverse communities are given the opportunity to challenge themselves, share knowledge, and gain skills in a new environment. Through the Custom Group Programs, Outward Bound Canada collaborates with Indigenous communities and organizations to develop inspiring and valuable programs that combine the philosophy of Outward Bound and the goals of the communities involved.
The Take a Kid Trapping Program is designed to introduce school age youth in the Northwest Territories to the traditional harvesting practices of hunting, trapping, fishing and outdoor survival. The program is delivered through schools and Indigenous organizations, in co-operation with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR). The program is funded by the Departments of ENR, Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) and Health and Social Services (HSS).
Take a Kid Trapping Program
Dechinta is dedicated to creating a future of Indigenous cultural revitalization through a reconnection with the land. They also aim to increase the accessibility of land-based programming for school aged youth, young adults transitioning out of high school and into post-secondary employment, and their families, as well as parents, youth, women, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Take a look at the field guide and documentary from their Łiwe Camp (fish camp) which provides information on what an Indigenous land-based university looks like in practice.
Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning
Deh Gáh is the only school in the NorthwestTerritories to operate on a year-round basis and offer extensive experiential land-basedprograms, immersion programs and multi-day on-the-land trips. By makingfundamental changes to the scheduling of the school calendar year and adjustments to the curriculum, the school has been able to create a land-based program through which every student spends four to six weeks on the land during fall, winter, spring and summer. By the time a student graduates, they will have spentfifty weeks on the land. This experience grounds students culturally by connecting them to the land and community - knowing who they are and where they come from.
Deh Gáh School On-the-Land Programming
Bringing youth to the great outdoors to help them connect with the land and Cree traditions for the purpose of recovery, personal growth, and fun!
Project George (Moose Cree First Nation)
The K’ómoks Guardian department prides itself in undertaking significant outreach throughout K’ómoks territory. Each season the team spends time at local schools teaching them about the Nation’s historic and current relationship to its lands and waters. The amount of time the Guardians have spent interacting with schools has created significant interest from youth. The Guardians have been so successful in inspiring K’ómoks youth that they have been able to hire all their existing staff from its summer student program. Guardians connect Elders and younger generations so youth can learn traditional ways of hunting, gathering, and processing foods.
K’ómoks Guardians Youth Engagement
This website contains a database that holds tons of recorded video stories about Indigenous education initiatives. Many of these initiatives involve land and water-based learning. You can search through the database by education topic, level (e.g. K-8, 9-12, post-secondary), province/territory, and language. You can also search by keyword and could type in "land" or "water" to search for on-the-land/water initiatives.
National Centre for Collaboration on Indigenous Education (NCCIE)
The Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training Program is based out of Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island and tailored to students who want to improve their outdoor skills for personal purposes and for those interested in becoming outdoor educators and adventure guides. This could be a potential training opportunity to explore for youth in communities to further develop skills that can facilitate them spending time on their lands and waters.
Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training
Dehcho K’éhodi means ‘Taking Care of the Dehcho’ in Dehcho Dene Zhatié. The Dehcho K’éhodi Stewardship Program is a regional on-the-land program for stewardship activities in the region. The foundation of the stewardship program is to (1) to be guided by the Dene Laws & Values; (2) to support & strengthen the Dene language; and (3) to enable youth-elder mentorships, so future generations of Dene can learn their culture and how to be on the land.
Dehcho K’éhodi (NWT)
Hooksum Outdoor School provides quality outdoor and environmental education with an emphasis on Hesquiaht knowledge. Hooksum hosts school, youth and adult groups and offers an annual 28-day outdoor leadership training program that includes certifications in wilderness first aid, lifesaving, and sea kayaking. The School also offers customized programs for a variety of groups. Hesquiaht culture and worldviews are incorporated in all aspects of Hooksum Outdoor School’s operation.
Hooksum Outdoor School
This programming is the first ever land-based education program on White Bear First Nations, a community of Nakoda, Dakoda, Cree and Saulteaux peoples in southeastern Saskatchewan. Students explore Indigenous practices and traditions and gain school credit. Some of the skills the students are learning range from tipi-raising, canoeing, trapping, hunting, preparing the meat, tanning hides, picking berries, and harvesting traditional medicines.
White Bear First Nation Land-Based Education (SK)
Envisioned as a dual-purpose, world-class eco-tourism lodge on the Hada River estuary during the summer, the project will deliver traditional healing programs and teachings in all aspects of the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw language and culture for the balance of the year, largely sustained by profits from the Nawalakw Lodge and Healing Village to fund programming. This multi-phase project will create presence and environmental stewardship in our traditional territory and create pride in our people. Our initial focus will be a Culture Camp for youth in grades 5-7, who have already had some exposure to kwak̓wala in their Band and Provincial Schools, though we plan to expand our focus over time and as Covid-19 retreats.
Nawalakw Healing Society
At Charles Hays Secondary School, geography 12 and specialized sciences 12 (fisheries) teachers are working closely together to get students out on the land and in the water as much as possible. Students learn about the territory and their local environment from an array of regional experts and professionals (e.g. Gitxaala Territorial Management Agency). One field trip to the hooligan run helped students learn about the region's natural food resources. The courses have also aimed to tie in Tsimshian language, such as when identifying and labelling endemic flora and fauna.