What are the benefits of Indigenous Guardian programs?
Indigenous peoples have been stewarding and managing their lands and waters since time immemorial. Guardian work is not something new, though the present day organization and expression of this role is.
As stories of success are shared and on-the-ground programs gain more experience, the benefits of Indigenous Guardian programs are increasingly being felt and recognized. A recent study of Coastal Guardian Watchman programs in BC quantifies these benefits.
Communities report benefits such as:
- Increased protection of cultural and ecological values.
- More influence and control over resource management issues in the territory.
- Increased assertion and expression of governance authority and nationhood.
- Strengthened cultural engagement and expression.
- Strengthened connections between youth and elders.
- Meaningful in-community employment and livelihoods.
- Increased use of Indigenous knowledge and integration into decision-making.
- Improved community wellbeing.
- Improved relationships and new connections with neighbouring communities.
- Improved or “activated” relationships with external agencies.
Many communities and Indigenous organizations report, however, that the most important benefit of guardian programs is the invaluable role they play in reconnecting people to the land, to their culture and their traditions.
The very work of being a guardian, in whatever form it takes, supports the spiritual and physical well-being of the guardians and uplifts them as individuals, family members, community members, and descendants of their ancestors who also cared for the same lands. In turn, guardians support the wellbeing of the land. It is a circle of positive change that is supporting the greater well-being and strength of Indigenous communities.