Indigenous Guardian Community Visits: Strengthen Relationships and Share Knowledge

Two of the communities that participated in Indigenous Guardians Community Visits this summer share some of what they learned. The funding for these visits comes from Nature United, formerly TNC Canada. It provides a chance for communities to get together to exchange knowledge, ideas, experiences and challenges related to their Indigenous Guardian programs. 

Wei Wai Kum Guardian Watchmen Attend the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network Guardian Gathering

The Wei Wai Kum First Nation on northern Vancouver Island is putting the pieces in place to establish a Guardian Watchman program. They have put two members through a stewardship technicians training program and are developing a Guardian Watchman program business plan. They are one of six member Nations that form part of the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network. The Network supports stewardship and Guardian Watchmen programs for their member Nations across northern Vancouver Island. A highlight is the annual Guardian Watchman gathering where everyone comes together to build compliance monitoring, enforcement and research skills.

The Wei Wai Kum First Nation used Community Visit funds to send three community members to this year’s gathering to learn from more established Guardian Watchmen programs of neighbouring Nations. The gathering was hosted by the Dan’naxda’xw Awaetlala First Nation in their village of Tsatsisnukwomi on Harbledown Island. The focus this year was developing safety protocols (lead by the Canadian Coastguard), honing skills to monitor river flow and water quality, and using drones to monitor eel grass and kelp. The gathering was not just about learning technical skills, it was also a chance for everyone to strengthen friendships and to find opportunities to work together.

Kelly Lake Attend Fort Nelson First Nation’s Cultural Camp

Two members from Kelly Lake travelled to the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) Cultural Camp in northeastern British Columbia in July to meet with some of the FNFN land guardian staff and other community members. They hoped to learn about moose and water monitoring activities conducted by the FNFN as part of their land guardian program. Kelly Lake Metis volunteers Devon Bowden and Blake Bowden are working on a land guardian program to monitor oil and gas development and forest industry activities on their traditional lands.

“We learned how the Fort Nelson First Nation monitor overhunting of moose on their traditional lands. They grid areas and look for moose sign, and conduct moose surveys from a helicopter,” says Devon Bowden. They also had a chance to meet with the water monitoring consultant who works on behalf of the FNFN. They have concerns about the impacts of road construction and logging on their traditional lands. They now have a better understanding about what is needed to monitor water siltation, temperature and snow depth. A highlight of the cultural camp was seeing how the FNFN Elders share their cultural knowledge and values with youth.

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