Victoria’s first-ever First Nation “flotilla” floated into Victoria’s inner harbour.
The traditional flotilla ceremony, held on Friday, was aimed at bringing awareness to Indigenous marine stewardship and conservation.
This is where a Lekwungen canoe protocol led several indigenous boats into the harbour, before they tied themselves together to show their commitment of working together to protect the ocean.
“Indigenous people feel a lot of responsibility for their waterways and understanding their relationship to those waters, that they can’t survive without them,” Christina Clark, Indigenous Prosperity Centre executive director, said. “This is also helping to convey that message to everyone else. That we all have to think of the water in that way, that it’s vital for our survival.”
About 10 First Nations from across southern Vancouver Island brought representatives and their vessels to show the general public what they do to protect the shorelines.
Most of the vessels are operated through federal funding, like the Salish Sea Initiative.
The funds are used to staff and operate the boats and stewardship programs and fund additional resources.
Chief Ron Sam, with Songees Nation, told CHEK News this helps the Nations participate in marine protection and monitoring initiatives like marine traffic monitoring, spill clean up and erosion monitoring.
“Really putting our people out onto the ocean, onto our lands, monitoring and participating in any way in protecting our resources here in our territories,” Sam said.
All the nations participating said it’s important for Indigenous people to be a part of marine conservation, because it provides food and resources to their people as well as the general public.
Joe Seward, with Tsartlip First Nation, said “it’s our responsibility as people to look after what is left for us.”
Going forward, the Indigenous Prosperity Centre and First Nations hope there will be more funding available to keep these Indigenous stewardship programs running.
Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria, said it’s important to listen to First Nations suggestions on ocean conservation and learn their way of protecting the environment.
“We will not survive without them and if we don’t learn how they have been protected so far and learn how to do that better for the future, really there is no future,” Alto said.
The First Nations are encouraging people with questions on marine conservation to reach out to their local nation.
Clark said there are plans to make the flotilla ceremony and annual event going forward.