The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has recently invested more than $12.8 million from the Indigenous Guardians fund to support 90 Indigenous-led conservation initiatives across the country.
This investment will support 41 new and 49 existing First Nations Indigenous Guardians initiative to protect and conserve lands, waters, and culture while providing meaningful employment opportunities. With these new initiatives, over a quarter of all First Nation communities will now have active Guardians programs from coast to coast to coast.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault was recently joined by Douglas Odjick, Council Member for the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, as well as Shaunna Morgan Siegers, Interim Executive Director of the new First Nations National Guardians Network to announce the new funds. The event also marked the passing of the torch from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the autonomous Guardians Network, which will oversee funding decisions for future applicants to the program.
“Indigenous-led conservation is proven to help lands, waters, and communities thrive, and it is central to Canada’s plan to protect 30 per cent of our lands and waters by 2030,” said Guilbeault. “The Indigenous Guardians program is crucial to these efforts, helping to protect ecosystems, species, and cultural heritage, while also having significant climate benefits.”
Projects such as the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nagadjitòdjig Guardian Initiative are examples of Guardians in action—acting as the “eyes and ears” on the ground by monitoring ecological health, identifying and maintaining culturally significant sites, and working to preserve and pass on traditional knowledge and nature-based learning.
“This investment will help ensure our Guardians program continues to provide stewardship and economic development in our community. Every day, Guardians are on the land, monitoring conditions, restoring species at risk, and helping inform decision making for Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg leadership,” said Chief Dylan Whiteduck of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation.
“They help revitalize Indigenous language and ways of knowing, which are the cornerstones of self-determination. Expanding the Guardians model across the country will help build a better, shared future for First Nations and Canada.”
At Kitigan Zibi, this project will support Guardians to be active on the land in the form of environmental and compliance monitoring and surveillance; working to preserve and transmit traditional knowledge gained by Elders and promote/facilitate nature-based learning with youth. Species of interest inventory programs will be created, the current water quality baseline study will be maintained, culturally significant sites will be identified, and educational and engagement opportunities will be facilitated, such as Traditional Knowledge workshops.