An Indigenous-led program that promotes and encourages the protection of coastal lands and waters got a significant boost from the province on Wednesday.
The B.C. government promised $1.4 million to train more Indigenous Guardians through a program at Vancouver Island University.
VIU also signed a memorandum of understanding with the six nations of the Nanwakolas Council – which are located on the Island and parts of B.C.’s coast – to signify the university’s partnership with the nations and the development of the program.
Three guardians, who are graduates of the VIU Stewardship Technician Training Program, attended the ceremony on Wednesday.
“I started being a guardian in March of 2020, worked in the field for six months and then in November 2020 I joined the program,” said David Cliffe, a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in the Campbell River area.
“And after the program, that’s when it gave me the broader picture of what my job really is and how important it is and how much one little thing that I do today can make a difference for tomorrow.”
The university says the benefits of the program are two-fold, including benefiting the environment as well as providing economic opportunity and meaningful employment to Indigenous people.
“Plans are only as good as [their] implementation, and the development of these stewardship programs have given us the opportunity to have our eyes and ears on the ground,” said Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council.
“As we protect and manage and maintain the ecosystems, it’s integral for First Nation voices to be heard throughout that process, so it’s really exciting to be here and announce these opportunities with the Province of B.C.,” he said Wednesday.
The program is 18 months long and is intended to help guardians prepare for future careers as professionals in forestry, biology, archaeology, environmental management, and other similar fields.