Stewardship Graduates Ready and Prepared to Protect their Coastal Territories

April 7, 2014 (All day)
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Twenty-three participants from nine Nations on the coast took part in a Stewardship Technicians Training program delivered through a partnership between Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative and Vancouver Island University. The training program wrapped up with a graduation ceremony in Port Hardy. In all, ten participants complet all seven courses and three others completed a majority of the courses:

•    Tara Brennan, Guy Edgars, Sean Brennan and David Vanderhoop from the Council of the Haida Nation;
•    Richard Reid, Randy Carpenter and Carey Stewart from the Heiltsuk Nation;
•    John Sampson from the Nuxalk Nation;
•    Brian Johnson from the Wuikinuxv Nation;
•    Chris Wilson and Kevin Paul from the Haisla Nation; and
•    Leslie Walkus and Ethan Shaw from the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations.

A graduation ceremony was held for the students in Port Hardy on February 28th. Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett, attending on behalf of Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative, and Ralph Nilson, President of Vancouver Island University, spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the students on their achievements. Each student was presented with a portfolio and gifts.

The goals of the program were to build stewardship technicians’ skills and knowledge for monitoring their territories, including:

•    Identifying, documenting and reporting environmental offences;
•    Monitoring and enforcing marine and land use plans;
•    Protecting ecological and cultural values in parks and protected areas;
•    Undertaking archaeological inventories for cultural heritage protection; and
•    Diagnosing and repairing marine engines and learning the basics of electrical marine wiring.

 “Overall I am far more confident in my work, with practical skills I can use every day in my role as a Guardian Watchman”, remarked one participant.

The training was specifically developed for First Nations stewardship staff who currently work for their Nation to monitor and protect the land and sea. The majority of the participants are employed as Guardian Watchmen, whose role is to be out on the water throughout the year collecting data, monitoring compliance to environmental regulations, and engaging the general public. The four Haida participants are employed in the Haida Mapping office, inventorying cultural and ecological features on protected areas and forestry lands.

The program included both credit and non-credit courses offered by Vancouver Island University. Two new courses were specifically designed to support the role of stewardship technicians in documenting environmental offences - Monitoring Environmental Compliance and Note-taking and Evidence Gathering. Students are equipped with the skills to document any situations of concern on the coast, from oil spills to fishing infractions.

Check out the slide show below that documents the nine-month training program. The Ministry of Advanced Education provided funds to develop and deliver the program through the Aboriginal Community-Based Partnership Program. We would like to acknowledge the generous support of Hakai Beach Institute for hosting the participants and instructors for four of the training courses and the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance for offering to help subsidize student travel.

For more information, please contact Sandra Thomson at the Coastal Stewardship Network (250-325-7263 or sandra@coastalguardianwatchmen.ca) or Sheila Cooper, Aboriginal Projects Manager at Vancouver Island University (250-753-3245 local 2804 or Sheila.Cooper@viu.ca).