The Indigenous Guardians Pilot recognizes the many lessons that can be learned from Indigenous partners across the country and relies on Indigenous experience and Traditional Knowledge to ensure lands and waters are protected for generations to come.
The federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, recently announced $600,000 in funding for 10 new initiatives under the Indigenous Guardians Pilot. Guardians act as the “eyes and ears on the ground.” These initiatives will enable First Nations to monitor ecological health, maintain cultural sites, and protect sensitive areas and species, while creating jobs.
“Indigenous Guardians are an essential part of Canada’s path forward, both for protecting nature and working towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” said Wilkinson. “With the funding announced today, these 10 First Nations communities will better protect lands and waters for future generations, while creating good local jobs.”
As part of the $600,000 investment, the Deninu K’ue First Nation, located in the Northwest Territories, received $60,000 to monitor harvesting activities in Resolution Bay in order to prevent overfishing and irresponsible tourism. Guardians will continue their presence as stewards of the lake and educate travellers and community members about the cultural importance of the area, the history of the land and water, and the future generations that will rely on it.
The 10 successful initiatives were chosen by a joint working group of First Nations experts and federal representatives, and reviewed against rigorous criteria for their benefit to First Nations communities and sustainability.
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting Indigenous leadership in conservation to help protect ecosystems, species and cultures for future generations. Budget 2021 proposes to invest an additional $2.3 billion to conserve nature, including by continuing to support Indigenous Guardians.
Valérie Courtois, director of Indigenous Leadership Initiative.
“These investments will put more Guardians on the ground, caring for the lands and waters we all depend on,” said Valérie Courtois, director of Indigenous Leadership Initiative. “Indigenous Nations are ready to lead on stewardship. By building on the success of the Pilot Program and strengthening the partnerships forged between Indigenous Nations and the Government of Canada, we can help achieve Canada’s biodiversity and climate goals and strengthen Nationhood in the process.”
10 initiatives under the Tier 1 stream of the First Nations Guardians Pilot:
Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, Ontario
This initiative will establish and reaffirm Anishinaabe People of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation as stewards of their land by monitoring the community’s lands, waters, skies and soils. Guardians will draw on knowledge of the environment from a fusion of Anishinaabe knowledge keepers and traditions, and contemporary science and best practices.
York Factory First Nation, Manitoba
This initiative will take a holistic approach to protecting the land with a focus on species at risk such as caribou. Youth will be empowered to become Guardians in activities such as maintaining trails and cultural sites; observing changes in the land; supporting respectful land use; and informing Council’s decisions about land use, stewardship and protection.
Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki, Quebec
This initiative will engage the Waban-Aki Nation in stewardship of their traditional territory. Drawing on both scientific practices and Traditional Knowledge, Guardians will monitor the lands and waters to identify areas of concern and of cultural importance. By reconnecting the community with traditional territory through Guardians and youth mentoring programs, community fishing and hunting events will facilitate the transfer of Traditional Knowledge while also helping to combat food insecurity.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation, British Columbia
This initiative will allow the community to reconnect with their traditional territory by monitoring important areas and working with partners to monitor fish and wildlife, collect information on contaminated sites and initiate habitat restoration initiatives. Guardians will also work with Elders and youth on the land to support knowledge transfer.
Shawanaga First Nation, Ontario
This initiative will start new land-based and species of concern monitoring initiatives in order to build capacity and employment opportunities within the community. Using a two-eyed seeing approach that weaves Indigenous Knowledge and western science, the project will support Indigenous stewardship to promote healthy resource harvesting and caretaking for wildlife population management. By integrating culture, language and community at every step, this project aims to empower youth to be the Elders of tomorrow.
Sipekne’katik First Nation, Nova Scotia
This initiative will employ Guardians to build community capacity, to protect and conserve lands and waters, to educate and engage the community by filling knowledge gaps, and to identify and steward sites of cultural significance. Guardians will work directly with Elders and community members to strengthen culture, identity and traditions through land-based learning.
Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation, Saskatchewan
This initiative will support capacity building in order to collect data; steward lands and habitats; and educate members on land conservation, respectful hunting practices and habitat stewardship. This project also supports habitat protection through youth and Elder engagement and the creation of an intergenerational knowledge system.
Nak’azdli Whut’en, British Columbia
This initiative will rely on Guardians to protect and restore the cultural and ecological integrity of traditional territory. The project will facilitate knowledge transfer and language use by engaging community members, Elders and youth in land-based learning with a focus on monitoring cultural keystone species, including species at risk, such as moose, caribou and sockeye salmon.
Takla Nation, British Columbia
This initiative will increase the environmental protection of fish and wildlife in the territory by mapping, data collection and ground-truthing culturally significant and traditional use areas, sites and trails. Guardians will enhance and increase the collection, documentation and communication of Traditional Knowledge to better prepare for participation in government-to-government negotiations and collaborations, and to work towards free, prior and informed consent on industry projects.
Deninu K’ue First Nation, Northwest Territories
This initiative will oversee and monitor harvesting activities in high-traffic areas of Resolution Bay to prevent overfishing and irresponsible tourism. Guardians will establish a presence as stewards of the lake and educate travellers and community members about the cultural importance of the area, the history of the land and water, and the future generations that will rely on it.
Featured image: Property of the the Deninu K’ue First Nation, located in the Northwest Territories.